Venus' Frown: the paradox of chaste marriage in the Dedicatory Poems to Salve Deus Rex Judæorum ; and, Christ's humoral irony in George Herbert's "The Sacrifice"

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Forrest Hamrick (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Michelle Dowd

Abstract: This thesis paper examines how Amelia Lanyer uses classical mythology in the dedicatory poems to Salve Deus Rex Judæorum to comment on early modern concepts of marriage. By examining her poetry within historical and cultural context, I demonstrate how Lanyer attempts to synthesize marriage with an early modern emphasis on celibacy, piety, and devotion. To substantiate this claim, I will examine how Lanyer creates an imaginative celibate space in the dedicatory poems "To all vertuous Ladies in generall" and "the Authors Dreame to the Ladie Marie, the countesse Dowager of Pembrooke." The space is inhabited by celibate and virginal mythological figures and mirrors a monastic society. After establishing a celibate realm, Lanyer introduces the married Lady Sidney and praises her as an emblem of chaste marriage, which synthesizes the monastic life with the married life. Running counter to the poem's chaste images are the non-celibate goddesses and the image of Juno's Chariot, which disrupt the realm and signal the dangerous and inevitable nature of early modern marriage. The classical images, when taken with historical and cultural context, create a tension within the poems that is centered on marriage. Lanyer seems uneasy with the lack of choice available to women after the Reformation, and she uses the space accorded to her by classical mythology to explore the tension within early modern marriage. However, she is unable to resolve the tension completely, and her final conclusion about the state of marriage is ambiguous. Secondly, this thesis examines how George Herbert's "The Sacrifice" portrays the physical body of Christ and how Christ's portrayal undermines a reading of the poem as a medieval Catholic meditative poem. Instead, Herbert ironically uses the traditional poetic structure of a meditative poem to emphasize the impossibility for man to recreate Christ's suffering. I examine how Herbert incorporates early modern concepts of the physical body into his depiction of Christ in order to undermine the genre of medieval meditative poetry on the Passion. To substantiate this claim, I establish the physical nature of Christ within the framework of the early modern body by using the concepts of galenic humoral theory, the semi-permeable nature of the body, and the body's communal aspects. Herbert integrates those concepts into "The Sacrifice" and uses the format of a medieval Catholic meditative poem on the Passion to help the reader identify with and partly relive the pain of Christ. However, Herbert overloads the poem's medieval structure with Christ' refrain "Was ever grief like mine?" and His physical pain, which reveals the impossibility of humanity recreating the Passion sequence. This paper demonstrates how Herbert uses the medieval structure of the poem ironically on both a physical and spiritual level, and how it positions the poem as a Protestant work written in opposition to Catholic meditative modes.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Amelia Lanyer, Dedicatory poems, George Herbert, Mythology, Protestant Reformation poetry, The Sacrifice
Lanyer, Aemilia. $t Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum
Herbert, George, $d 1593-1633. $t Poems. $k Selections
English poetry $y Early modern, 1500-1700 $x History and criticism

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