Romantic Love and Early Modern English: The “Trew Fayre” and “Vertuous Mind” College

In the period of Early Modern English, romantic love was a major subject in literature. From Hoby’s translation of The Courtier to the various sonnets written during this time, everyone seemed to have something to add regarding their opinions on what exactly love is and the role that love plays in society. Many of the texts during this time period have offer a distinct perspective on love, some believing love might be the key to virtue, or love might transcend death, or even that love is present just for the sake of love. The conversation held between Early Modern English texts reveals to us the ideology behind love during this time period.

Beginning with Sir Thomas Hoby’s translation of Castiglione’s The Courtier, the stage is set for a rather specific view of romantic love. Specifically in the fourth book, titled “The Ladder of Love,” love is described as a method of attaining virtue, though recognizing one’s true beauty, or goodness. If a woman is able to “openeth the eyes that all men have and few occupy, and seeth in herself a shining beam of that light which is the true image of the angel-like beauty partened with her,” a pair of lovers will experience a “love greater and happier than others, as the cause that stirreth it...

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