Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion


Amoretti is a sonnet cycle written by Edmund Spenser in the 16th century. The cycle describes his courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle.

Amoretti was first published in 1595 in London by William Ponsonby. It was printed as part of a volume entitled Amoretti and Epithalamion. Written not long since by Edmunde Spenser. The volume included the sequence of 89 sonnets, along with a series of short poems called Anacreontics and Epithalamion, a public poetic celebration of marriage.[1] Only six complete copies remain today, including one at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and one at Oxford's Bodleian Library. “The volume memorializes Spenser’s courtship of Elizabeth Boyle, a young, well-born Anglo-Irish woman, and the couple’s wedding on June 11, 1594”.[2] In the sonnets of Amoretti Spenser succeeds in "immortalizing the name of his bride to be ... by devices of word play".[3]

Amoretti has been largely overlooked and unappreciated by critics, who see it as inferior to other major Renaissance sonnet sequences in the Petrarchan tradition. In addition, it has been overshadowed by Spenser’s other works, most notably The Faerie Queene, his epic allegorical masterpiece. C. S. Lewis, among the most important twentieth century Spenser scholars said that “Spenser was not one of the great sonneteers”.[4] However, other critics consider Spenser’s sonnets to be innovative and to express a range of tones and emotions, and are much more skillful and subtle than generally recognized.

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