The Shipwrecked Soul in Elizabethan England : Crossing Motifs from Petrarch to Lady Mary Wroth

Par Aurélie Griffin
Publication en ligne le 14 novembre 2016


Petrarch’s sonnet 189, which depicts the persona’s soul as a ship crossing tempestuous seas, encountered such success in Elizabethan England that it was translated, imitated and adapted by a series of poets. Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Philip Sidney, his younger brother, Sir Robert Sidney and the latter’s daughter, Lady Mary Wroth, all depicted the soul’s torments as a shipwreck. The existence of this set of poems suggests a series of questions. What transformations did the motif of the shipwrecked soul undergo in the works of these poets ? Given that Philip, Robert and Mary Sidney (Wroth) were related and all worked within the framework of the sonnet sequence, is there a sort of « Sidney imprint » on that motif ? As the only woman among the poets quoted above, is Lady Mary Wroth’s use of the same motif influenced by her gender ? As the last writer in this « line of poets », was her knowledge of Petrarch mediated by the other English poets that used the image of the shipwrecked soul before her ? This paper aims to question the dynamics of imitation in Elizabethan England by studying a group of poems that all emanated from the same « Ur-poem », Petrarch’s sonnet 189. Across time and distance, Wyatt and the Sidneys engaged in a dialogue which found its origins in Petrarch but also participated in the making of an English poetic tradition.

Texte intégral

1Seafaring images fared well in Tudor and Jacobean poetry, perhaps due to the experience of travellers crossing the Channel to reach the continent and the wider awareness of living on an island. In particular, Petrarch’s Rime 189, which depicts the soul as a ship crossing tempestuous seas, was translated and imitated by a series of poets. First, Thomas Wyatt offered his own translation of the poem, entitled « My Galley » (published in 1557 in Totell’s Songes and Sonnettes1. Several members of the Sidney circle then appropriated the same motif : Sir Philip Sidney in Astrophil and Stella (1591), his younger brother Robert in his unfinished sonnet sequence (1587-1614), and finally his own daughter, Lady Mary (Sidney) Wroth (1611-1621). Although Petrarch’s influence over sixteenth and seventeenth-century English poetry is well known, the success of this particular motif is intriguing. This paper questions the persistence of the motif of the shipwrecked soul in Elizabethan poetry (in the broad sense) by examining the dynamics of imitation. Over a period of sixty to seventy years, the poets mentioned above repeated and transformed the motif inaugurated by Petrarch. Each generation of poets in the Sidney circle seemed to engage in a dialogue not only with Petrarch, but with their relatives as well. The motif of the shipwrecked soul presents us with a case in point to study the creative dynamics at work in and out of a coterie in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

2The success of Petrarch’s sonnet 189 in England may have to do partly with readers’ first-or second-hand experiences of sea voyage, or with the fact that it is relatively straightforward in comparison with other Petrarchan poems. In terms of syntax and imagery, the poem is fairly simple to understand, and could almost convey an impression of spontaneity, of describing a vivid experience on the spot :

Passa la nave mia colma d’oblio
Per aspro mare, a mezza notte il verno,
Enfra Scilla e Caribdi ; et al governo
Siede ’l signore, anzi ’l nimico mio ;
A ciascun remo un penser ponto e rio
Che la tempesta e ’l fin par ch’abbi a scherno ;
La vela rompe un vento umido, eterno,
Di sospir, si spernaze, e desio ;
Pioggia di lagrimar, nebbia di sdegni
Bagna e rallenta le giá stanche sarte,
Che son d’error con ignoranzia attorto
Celansi i duo mei dolci usati segni ;
Morta fra l’onde è la ragion e l’arte,
Tal ch’i’ ’ncomincio a desperar del porto2.

3The entire poem develops the extended metaphor of the persona’s soul as a ship in tempestuous waters. The sonnet is highly consistent, both in terms of imagery and sound patterns, with its obsessive rhyme scheme (most of the lines end with an <o>), and repeated plosive and liquid sounds that mimic the sounds of the tempest. The text constitutes a poetic challenge as the poet strives to maintain the initial metaphor while making sure to have a few surprises left in store.

4Petrarch does manage to create some suspense from the start, by leaving the reader in doubt as to the metaphorical nature of the image. The phrase «la nave mia » (« my ship3 ») could refer to a ship actually sailing the seas, and the first stanza as a whole seems to refer to an actual journey. The phrase « colma d’oblio » (which can be translated as « full of oblivion ») might suggest a move away from the referential into the metaphorical, but it is neither developed nor explained, so that what has been forgotten remains mysterious. Moreover, the following lines insist on time (« a mezza notte il verno ») and space (« per aspro mare », « enfra Scilla e Caribdi »), so that the apparently « realistic » dimension of the journey overtakes the possible metaphor and supersedes it in the reader’s imagination. It is likely, therefore, that most readers will have forgotten any metaphorical reading by the end of the first stanza.

5However, the beginning of the second stanza reverts to the metaphorical, with the mention of thought (« un penser ») and various emotions (« ponto e rio », « ospir, spernaze, desio »). The figurative nature of the poem thus becomes clear, as well as its true subject. The ship, which is defined by thoughts and emotions, becomes an image of the persona’s troubled soul. It also becomes clear that the poet attempts to make the reader feel the persona’s emotions both by mimicking the violence of the storm through musicality and by stimulating perplexity, causing the reader to experience the same kind of rapid or eager thought (« un penser ponto ») as the persona in their attempt to understand the poem. Just as the persona is challenged by the conflicting emotions that assail him, the reader’s understanding is also challenged by the poem’s wavering between the proper and the figurative senses, despite its initial, deceptive simplicity. The persona even appears to be on the verge of insanity, for the sail’s fragility is emphasized as it risks being torn (« la vela rompe »).

6The vividness of the poems’ images thus derives from its specific mode of representation. By repeatedly crossing the boundaries between the proper and the figurative senses, the poem charges each image with renewed intensity as it blurs the distinction between the signifier and the signified. At the beginning of the third stanza, the metaphors seem to work both ways : the rain of tears (« pioggia di lagrimar ») and the « mist of disdain » (« nebbia di sdegni ») would also make sense the other way around, depicting the weather in a prefiguration of pathetic fallacy. The constant blend between the referential and the metaphorical lies at the heart of the poem’s consistency, which requires a converse effort for the reader to find their bearings. The poem even comes full circle, from the possessive adjective « my ship » (« la nave mia ») to the personal pronoun I (« tal ch’i’ncomincio »), from the metaphor to the persona it represents.

7In the early Renaissance, the motif of the shipwrecked soul came to be associated with Petrarch as a poetic figure4. In his study of « the author’s portrait as reader guidance », critic Karl Enenkel recounts that a 1476 codex that once belonged to Lorenzo il Magnifico (now in the Bibliothèque Nationale) shows : « a double author’s portrait that demonstrates the moral development the poet has undergone, and is also intended to serve as a moral example for the reader. The lower part of the page represents « the love-sick poet sitting under a laurel tree ». In the middle of the page, a large miniature depicts « Petrarch as a ship-wrecked lover saving his life by clutching the laurel-tree5 ». Enenkel adds that « the laurel tree alone has the power to save, since it represents the sublimation of the emotion and opposes ascesis to fleshly lust6 ». On the page, the poet springs from the ship to save himself, which shows a completely different perspective from that exposed in sonnet 189, in which the persona and the ship are one and the same. However, the relationship between the two miniatures is not quite clear : while the larger image shows the poet saving himself thanks to poetry, the smaller one, which is bound to catch the beholder’s attention later, reiterates the poet’s melancholy as it appears indistinguishable from his creative powers. The two pictures stand in contrast to each other, and can either be « read » in chronological order or as opposites. In the chronological order, the poet would likely appear as having saved himself only to fall under the spell of melancholy again ; or the small image could belie the large one and suggest that there is no redeeming the poet’s melancholy. In any case, the poet’s self is shown as fragmented by the coexistence of these two images, just as the poem itself is fragmented, divided between the literal and the figurative levels. Furthermore, the apparent opposition between agony and survival (or resurrection ?) through poetry is also present in the poem, which asserts the death of both reason and art (« morta fra l’onde è la ragion e l’arte » : dead in the waves are reason and art) but simultaneously shows the triumph of poetry in action. In typical Petrarchan fashion, the poem seemingly affirms the failure of art to demonstrate otherwise. The tension between what the poem says and what it does is central to its aesthetics. The theme of mental shipwreck could hardly be more appropriate to carry out such a poetic tour de force.

8In his 1557 translation, which follows the order of the poem, Sir Thomas Wyatt – the first English translator of Petrarch7 – rather logically retains similar tensions, particularly the principle of oscillating between the referential and the metaphorical :

My galley, charged with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
‘Tween rock and rock ; and eke mine en’my, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness ;
And every owre a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance ;
Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain ;
Drownèd is Reason that should me comfort ;
And I remain despairing of the port8.

9With the opening phrase « my galley », Wyatt introduces a sense of identity that is paradoxically both (con)fused, as the referential subject merges with the metaphor, and split, for the use of the possessive « my » suggests a preexisting identity. Wyatt reinforces some of the effects present in Petarch’s sonnet through syntactical choices, for instance in the first two lines. While Petrarch created a somewhat dramatic effect by placing the verb before the subject, Wyatt, rather, spreads the two as far apart as possible, placing the subject at the beginning of the first line and the verb at the end of the second. This movement reproduces that of the ship being thrust from « rock to rock » (the repetition substituting rather aggressive sounds to the more musical Greek names of the rocks, Scylla and Charybdis) and already symbolically introduces the notion of shipwreck, as if the ship had been broken up into two parts. It also represents the speaker’s « immense confusion » as he seems to be « out of his mind », as if his being were torn between identity and action, through the extended distance between the subject and the verb9.

10This expressive use of syntax underlines what had hardly been introduced at this stage in the Petrarchan poem. Contrary to this distortion effect, Wyatt also resorts to very dense – one might say Petrarchan – phrases in other places, such as the oxymoronic « forced sighs » and « trusty fearfulness ». The tension between such contrary motions (between extension and concentration) at the metapoetic level resembles the « kinetic energy » Jean Pironon has noticed in some of Wyatt’s poems, including this one10. While Wyatt formerly spread words that belong together, he now provokes a contrary effects by conflating opposites ; but the overall effect is similar, as these examples all contribute to obscuring the meaning of the poem. Thus it might be said that Wyatt out-petrarchs Petrarch in his translation of Petrarch. Interestingly, though, Wyatt claims reason’s death by drowning (« drowned is reason that should me consort ») but omits the word « art » that was present in the corresponding line in the original poem. Wyatt thus takes distance from his model in so far as he apparently refuses to adopt Petrarch’s false modesty to the full. The preceding line, however, might contain an allusion to this, as the word « stars » (« the stars be hid that led me to this pain ») could almost be read as the anagram of « art ». Even in his rather faithful translation, arguably his « best » translation of Petrarch11, Wyatt makes use of the gap between the two languages to transform some aspects of Petrarch’s writing and express his own poetic voice12, and even possibly his own wit. Channelling the Petrarchan model, Wyatt uses the image of the ship to assert his own poetic figure13.

11Moving further away from the original than Wyatt in his translation, both Philip and Robert Sidney rewrote the motif of the shipwrecked soul, and their poems have much in common. The difficulty to date the poems precisely (in particular in the case of Robert Sidney) makes it impossible to be certain if one preceded the other or if they were written through some sort of collaboration, but Philip Sidney’s leading figure on the poetic scene, in and out of his family for that matter, strongly suggests that Robert Sidney had his brother’s poem in mind while writing his own. He regularly imitated lines from his brother poetry, so this attempt would be no exception.

12What the two poems have in common is a significant change in the structure of the metaphor through the explicit introduction of the beloved. In Petrarch’s (and Wyatt’s) poem(s), the shipwreck represented the poet’s soul independently from the evocation of the beloved. Given the amorous nature of the Rime sparse, love melancholy was to be inferred, but the beloved was altogether absent from the poems. In Philip and Robert Sidney’s poems, the beloved is given some space, but in slightly different ways.

13In Philip Sidney’s poem, the beloved appears very late :

I see the house ; my heart, thyself contain ;
Beware full sails drown not thy tottering barge,
Lest joy, by nature apt sprites to enlarge,
Thee to thy wrack beyond thy limits strain ;
Nor do like lords, whose weak confused brains,
Not pointing to fit folks each undercharge,
While every office themselves will discharge,
With doing all, leave nothing done but pain.
But give apt servants their due place ; let eyes
See beauty’s total sum summed in her face ;
Lets ears hear speech, which wit to wonder ties ;
Let breath suck up those sweets ; let arms embrace
The globe of weal ; lips love’s indentures make ;
Thou but of all the kingly tribute take14.

14Stella’s representation is fragmented, as in a blazon (« speech », « those sweets »), and is limited to abstraction (« beauty’s total sum »). Stella’s body and soul are never presented as complete, and the possessive pronoun « her » only appears once. Philip Sidney’s evocation of beauty and desire in this poem objectify the woman. Even when Sidney lavishes praise on his beloved, the formulations leave very little space for personality : « the globe of weal », « beauty’s total sum summ’d in her face ». Stella is a distant presence, or an « absent presence » as Astrophil puts it in the sequence15 ; but while Astrophil represents this distance as forced, the representation of the woman may seem, in this poem, rather dismissive.

15In Petrarch’s and Wyatt’s poems, the focus was entirely on the poet’s soul. In their poems, the persona’s passivity is emphasized, as the personal pronoun « I » only appears once, in the very last line, while its presence is objectified in the possessive adjectives and pronouns (« my galley », « led me », etc.). The soul’s torments are underlined by its passivity. Philip Sidney’s poem stands in sharp contrast to this tradition as it opens with an emphatic « I », immediately followed by the possessive pronoun and the self-addressed imperative « my heart thyself contain ». The first line of the poem shows the specular reflection of the persona who observes himself rather than his beloved’s house. This hyperbolic representation of the persona is typical of Sidney. At the end of the poem, the possessive adjectives even disappear (« let eyes », « let ears » etc.), as if specifics were unnecessary : despite the mention of the beloved, there is virtually space for no one else than Astrophil. Modes of address are actually self-address, as « I » and « thy » or « thou » all refer to Astrophil. Sidney thus pursues the identification between the ship and the persona or the poet inaugurated by Petrarch and Wyatt, but in a more extreme way, introducing the beloved as is only to deny her any space or personality.

16In his poem, Robert Sidney also introduces the female presence :

On unknown shore, with weather hard destrest,
The fainting Mariner so feares the night
As I whoe in the days declining light
Doe read the story of my wrack of rest.

Blest in yowr sight ; and but in sight yet blest
even now to leave yowr light, my lifes delight,
I wayt to adore, in rayes, as sweet as bright,
the Sun lodg’d in yowr eyes, heaves in your brest

O of mans hopes the vain condition !
whyle I am saijng, thow lowe shady roome
straight shalt a match to highest spheares becoom.

Sad night to be more darck your stay puts on.
and in yowr fayling paints, her black aspect.
yet sees a minde more darck, for yor neglect16.

17The poet addresses the beloved directly through the recurrent use of the possessive adjective « your », resorting to blazon–like images in the same way as his brother (« your eyes », « your brest »). These, of course, are not specific to Philip Sidney, and certainly do not suffice to prove that Robert was imitating Philip, but it is rather striking that they should both transform the same Petrarchan motif by introducing the female presence in the same way.

18Robert and Philip also use the same rhyming pattern for the first two stanzas (abba) – the same one that was used by Wyatt, too. Robert Sidney’s poem, however, shows more influence from Wyatt. Robert Sidney’s poem is by far the most obscure we have encountered so far, for the five last lines are almost paratactic. In their reading of this poem, Hilton Kelliher and Katherine Duncan-Jones have argued that « these lines seem rather contorted » and have drawn a parallel with another sonnet from Astrophil and Stella, which in their view, « is also obscure in its images of light and dark17 ». This is certainly correct, but one might hope to gain a better understanding of Robert Sidney’s poem by considering the Petrarch/Wyatt intertext.

19In the first stanza, Robert Sidney seems to follow the latter model, then switches to the Philip Sidney model by referring to the beloved as the ship, and might have tried to unite the two at the end of his own poem. Just as Petrarch’s and Wyatt’s poems, Robert Sidney’s is entirely coloured by melancholy, but the persona’s despair derives from his beloved’s disdain. In that respect, Robert Sidney’s poem appears as a crossing between Petrarch and Wyatt one the one hand, and Philip Sidney on the other. Philip Sidney’s poem, indeed, completely reverts the perspective from Petrarch’s : instead of representing despair, the ship now represents the excess of joy which treatens the poet’s sanity. Instead of contrary elements, the danger lies within the persona himself : « Beware full sails drown nott thy tott’ring barge ». Excess of confidence and sexual arousal have replaced Petrarchan despair. Reconciling the two models was a challenge which Robert Sidney tackled more or less successfully, but the obscurity and complex syntax seem to derive from this attempt. The poem, so to speak, bursts out of conflicting references, and the speaker accordingly fails to assert himself as strongly as his predecessors had done.

20At the end of the Sidney poetic line, Mary (Sidney) Wroth thus had a lot to deal with18. The Petrarchan model might have grown distant19, mediated as it was by several English poets, two of whom were among her closest relatives. From the start, however, Wroth’s poem distinguishes itself from the tradition :

My paine, still smother’d in my grived brest,
Seekes for some ease, yett cannott passage finde
To bee discharg’d of this unwellcome ghest ;
When most I strive, more fast his burdens bind,

Like to a ship, on Goodwines cast by wind
The more she strives, more deepe insand is prest
Till she bee lost ; so am I, in this kind
Sunk, and devour’d, and swallow’d by unrest,

Lost, shipwrack’d, spoyl’d, debar’d of smallest hope
Nothing of pleasure left ; save thoughts have scope,
Which wander may ; Goe then, my thoughts, and cryHope’s perish’d ; Love tempest-beaten ; Joy lost
Killing dispaire hath all thes blessings crost
Yett faith still cries, Love will nott falsefy20.

21The first stanza incorporates an element which had been forgotten since Petrarch : that of the failure of art. Wroth develops this theme and devotes an entire stanza to what occupied only a line in the original poem. In terms of rhythm and vocabulary, her poem displays reminiscences of Petrarch and Wyatt. The opening phrase, « my paine », echoes « my galley », while the word « passage » is similar to the verb « passa » which opened Petrarch’s sonnet. Simultaneously, Wroth uses words found in her uncle’s poem (« discharge ») and in her father’s as well ; but while Robert Sidney evoked « the sun [that] heaves in your brest », Wroth reverts the perspective to mention « my grived brest », in a musical echo of her father’s phrasing. Contrary to her father, though, Wroth manages to combine these discreet borrowings to create her own poem. In Petrarchan fashion, she claims the failure of her art only to prove otherwise.

22If the beginning of the poem is explicitly about writer’s block, the persona finds renewed inspiration in turning to the motif of the shipwrecked soul. Contrary to Petrarch, Wyatt and Philip Sidney, but in the same way as her father, Wroth favours simile over metaphor here : « Like to a ship » (« As I » in RS). While the motif might have been somewhat hackneyed by then, Wroth adds her own twist of originality by using the pronoun « she » to refer to the ship, as is customary in English – but given her female identity, this pronoun (which is entirely absent from all the other poems) emphasizes the persona’s gender. The title of Wroth’s sonnet sequence, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, and the fact that she had her poems both circulated and published under her own name, make it abundantly clear that these poems were the work of a woman and were meant to be read as such21. In that respect, this female ship (with the paronomasis she / ship) works as an embedded image of the writer within the text, which is itself reinforced by the mirror effect « till she bee lost ; so am I » (an effect that had already been used by Philip Sidney, as we have seen). Wroth’s creation and the construction of her poetic figure are thus rooted in her imitation of a line of male authors, and her careful reworking of their individual inputs. By combining their influences, she created her own blend and was able to distinguish her own identity from that of her predecessors, finding her own poetic voice in the balance between imitation and originality in the wake of her elders.

23The motif of the shipwrecked soul that was inherited from Petrarch underwent a series of transformations from Wyatt to Wroth22. It resonated strongly in the Sidney circle, as its most prominent members all offered their own variation on the theme. As time moved on, the poems grew increasingly complex from the addition and interference of references, which contributed to the motif’s persistence. As a woman, Wroth saw in that motif what her predecessors had overlooked so far, namely the possibilities offered by the pronoun « she » used in English to refer to ships. In doing so, she somewhat cunningly parallelled her elders’ erasure of female presence by claiming the femininity of her creation, while erasing her own, male beloved from her poem. The dynamics of imitation proved, for all of these poets, an incentive to creation, as they attempted to turn shipwreck into a poetic success.


1  In this miscellany, the poem appears under the title « The lover compareth himself to a ship in perilous storme tossed on the sea » ; Songes and Sonettes written by the Right Honourable Henry Howard Earle of Surrey and other (sic.), London, Richard Tottel, 1557, fol. 22.

2  « My ship, full of forgetful cargo sails / through rough seas at the midnight of winter / between Charybdis and the Scylla reef, / My master, no, my foe, is at the helm ; / at each oar sits a quick and insane thought/ that seems to scorn the storm and what it brings ; / the sail, by wet eternal winds of sighs, / of hopes and of desires blowing, breaks ; / a rain of tears, a mist of my disdain / washes and frees those all too weary ropes / made up of wrong entwined with ignorance. / Hidden are those too trusty signs of mine ; / dead in the waves is reason as is skill, / and I despair of ever reaching port. » Petrarch, The Canzoniere, trans. and ed. by Mark Musa, Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1999, p. 280-281.

3  All translations from Petrarch’s poem in this passage are mine.

4  This poem was also seen as inaugurating the « topos of the ship of state » : William J. Kennedy, Authorizing Petrarch, Ithaca, Cornell UP, 1994, p. 220-35.

5  Karl A. E. Enenkel, « The Author’s Portrait as Reader Guidance : Petrarch », in Celeste Brusati, Karl A. E. Enenkel and Walter Melion, eds., The Authority of the Word : Reflecting on Image and Text in Northern Europe, 1400-1700, Leiden, Brill, 2011, p. 173-177, p. 173.

6  Ibidem.

7  Reed Way Dasenbrock, « Wyatt’s Transformation of Petrarch », Comparative Literature, vol. 40, n° 2 (Spring 1988), p. 122-33, p. 122.

8  Sir Thomas Wyatt, sonnet 19, in The Complete Poems, ed. Ronald A. Rebholz, London, Penguin, 1978, p. 81.

9  Barbara L. Estrin, Laura : Uncovering Gender and Genre in Wyatt, Donne and Marvell, Durham, NC, Duke UP, 1994, p. 113.

10  Jean Pironon, Le Luth et le blason : les sens, la sensation et le moi lyrique de Thomas Wyatt à Edmund Spenser (1527-1595), Bern, Peter Lang, 2009, p. 166.

11  Anthony Mortimer, Petrarch’s Canzoniere in the English Renaissance, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2005, p. 14.

12  Reed Dasenbrock similarly argues that « the degree of freedom of a Wyatt translation is a function, not of Wyatt’s degree of independence or rebelliousness, but of the distance the poem must travel to become a poem by Wyatt », art. cit., p. 129. See also Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy : Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry, New Haven, London, Yale UP, 1985, p. 245.

13  « À l’occasion de son travail d’imitation, Wyatt ne put s’empêcher de construire un moi lyrique dans lequel semblent inscrites la tension et les frustrations du système d’autorité politique dans lequel il était inclus. Wyatt a tiré parti de son emprunt pour s’écrire lui-même », Jean Pironon, « Thomas Wyatt traducteur de Pétrarque », in Marie Couton, Isabelle Fernandes, Christian Jérémie et Monique Vénuat, eds., Emprunt, plagiat, réécriture aux XVe, XVIe, XVIIe siècles, Clermont-Ferrand, Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2006, p. 37-51, p. 48.

14  Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella, sonnet 85, in The Major Works, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones, Oxford, OUP, 2002 [1989], p. 188-189.

15  Ibid., « O absent presence, Stella is not here », sonnet 106, p. 210, l. 1.

16  Sir Robert Sidney, sonnet 22, in Hilton Kelliher and Katherine Duncan-Jones, « A Manuscript of Poems by Robert Sidney : Some Early Impressions », The Electronic British Journal, 1976, 14, p. 129.

17  Hilton Kelliher and Katherine Duncan-Jones, art. cit., p. 140.

18  On the influence of Sir Philip and Sir Robert Sidney on Lady Mary Wroth’s poetry, see for example The Poems of Lady Mary Wroth, ed. Josephine Roberts, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State UP, 1983, p. 46-47 ; Gavin Alexander, Writing After Sidney : The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney, 1586-1640, Oxford, OUP, 2006, p. 287 ; Rosalind Smith, « Lady Mary Wroth’s Pamphilia to Amphilanthus : The Politics of Withdrawal », English Literary Renaissance, vol. 30, n° 3 (Autumn 200), p. 408-341, p. 418-419 ; Maureen Quilligan, « The Constant Subject : Instability and Female Authority in Wroth’s Urania Poems », in Clare R. Kinney, Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England, 1550-1700 : vol. 4, Mary Wroth, Farnham, Ashgate, 2009, p. 241-269, p. 242.

19  On Petrarch’s influence over Lady Mary Wroth, see Mary B. Moore, Desiring Voices : Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism, Carbondale, U of Illinois P, 2000, p. 125-150.

20  Lady Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, sonnet 6 P68 as numbered by the editor, ibid., p. 122.

21  See in particular Gavin Alexander, op. cit., p. 287 ; Mary Ellen Lamb, Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle, Madison, U of Wisconsin P, 1990, p. 142-143 ; Barbara K Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard UP, 1993, p. 242-307 ; Josephine Roberts, The Poems of Lady Mary Wroth, op. cit., Introduction, p. 42-48 ; Gary F. Waller, The Sidney Family Romance : Mary Wroth, William Herbert and the Early Modern Construction of Gender, Detroit, Wayne State UP, 1993, p. 203-204.

22  On Petrarch’s influence over Elizabethan poetry, see especially Heather Dubrow, Echoes of Desire : English Petrarchism and its Counterdiscourses, Ithaca, Cornell UP, 1995, and Thomas P. Roche, Petrarch and the English Sonnet Sequences, NY, AMS Press, 1989.

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Par Aurélie Griffin, «The Shipwrecked Soul in Elizabethan England : Crossing Motifs from Petrarch to Lady Mary Wroth», Shakespeare en devenir [En ligne], N°11 - 2016, Shakespeare en devenir, mis à jour le : 14/11/2016, URL :

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Aurélie Griffin is a Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature and a member of CELEC at Université Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne. Her PhD dissertation, which dealt with Lady Mary Wroth’s poetics of melancholy, was supervised by Line Cottegnies at the Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 and completed in 2013. It was awarded the First Prize for a dissertation in Gender Studies from the Gender Institute – CNRS in 2014. A revised version is forthcoming from Classiques Garnier. She has written various article ...