I'm certainly not an expert, but I do love the Amoretti and completed a rereading of them just a few days ago.

To me, the Amoretti express a swath of life experience by presenting a series of almost "epiphanies" or depictions that represent momentary spiritual and/or emotional (and sometimes sexual) states of being or experience. It's kind of like looking at a set of photographs scattered over a period of years that are flashed before you.

I have not read Shakespeare's sonnets recently, but I recall them as each depicting a larger realm of experience, often experience that has been thoroughly analyzed and hence re-invented by the intellect--not so much instantaneous sensations or realizations as is the case with Spenser. You could say that experiencing a Shakespearean sonnet is more like watching a carefully crafted video sequence than looking at a photograph.

If this is actually true, one could say that Spenser chose the content for each sonnet by excluding all but a very carefully selected momentary snippet of experience or realization; while Shakespeare's goal was to make each individual sonnet represent an actual "swath" of experience, such as might also be presented in a short chapter of a novel.

Apologies, as always, if these ideas are dumb! I'm not a professor...


lipke wrote:

I’ve come across the following statement from L.C. Knights, published in Scrutiny magazine, way back in 1934:


The kind of technical development we see in Shakespeare’s Sonnets is in itself an attempt to become more fully conscious (just as Spenser’s technique is a method of exclusion), an attempt to secure more delicate discrimination and adjustment.


Ian Lipke