John Donne: Poems

Rhetorical and Textual Culture in Donne's Holy Sonnets College

Donne's Holy Sonnets have long been considered classic examples of Renaissance poetry. They were not printed until after his death in 1631, with the first printing being in 1633, and three additional sonnets being added some time later when another manuscript was discovered. This essay will look at the rhetorical and textual culture surrounding and influencing Holy Sonnet 9 (as the ordering of the sonnets across manuscripts and printed versions was not uniform, it appears as sonnet 5 in one sequence), which begins “If poysonous minerals...”. In addition, the sonnet's illustration of the Renaissance idea of the self will be examined, as will the meter and other formal features. For the sake of ease, this sonnet will henceforth referred to simply as “Minerals”, and for the purposes of quotation, this essay will treat the Westmoreland manuscript version of "Minerals" as the primary source.

Like most Renaissance writings, “Minerals” is laden with rhetorical techniques, the purpose of which is to highlight the points being made or influence the audience in some way. Rhetoric is firmly rooted in ancient Greek and Roman culture, the precepts and mechanisms thereof being laid out by such ancient luminaries as Aristotle and Plato. It is...

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