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Sonnet 11 by Lady Mary Wroth describes the poet’s feelings after she has given all her love to her lover, but her lover is unfaithful to her. This sonnet depicts a dark side of love where the poet expresses her pain, agony and misery over her unfaithful lover. By the end of the poem, the poet is even thinking about committing suicide to end the pain caused by her lover.
About the poet
Born in 1587, Lady Mary Wroth passed away in 1653. She was a poet from the English Renaissance. Lady Mary Wroth came from a prominent literary family and became one of the first women to gain a lasting reputation as a poet. The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, a prose romance, and Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, a sonnet series, are two of Lady Mary Wroth’s best-known works. She also penned the pastoral play Love’s Victory. She also wrote secular poetry and romances, which went against the conventions of poetry. She holds the distinction of being the first female author of an original piece of prose fiction and a sequence of sonnets. Poets of the era, like Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and Josuah Sylvester, praised Wroth’s work.
Lady Mary Wroth is organised like an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. Petrarchan sonnets are made up of two main sections, an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines), with a total of 14 lines, typically written in iambic pentameter. The sonnet’s volta, often known as the turn, is a crucial point wherein tone or perspective frequently changes. The volta in Sonnet 11 takes place in lines 8 and 9, where the expression of the intensity of emotional suffering gives way to a resolution or shift in viewpoint.
You endless torments that my rest oppress, How long will you delight in my sad pain? Will never Love your favour more express? Shall I still love, and ever feel disdain?
The poet blames her lover for the torment that he has caused her. The poet says that the betrayal by her lover has caused her so much agony. In that pain, the poet asks her lover a series of rhetorical questions to make the reader feel her pain. She asks her lover whether he will always feel delight in her pain or whether she will always feel the same way about him. She is so much in pain that she asks her lover whether she should live in pain or end her life.
Alas, now stay, and let my grief obtain Some end; feed not my heart with sharp distress. Let me once see my cruel fortunes gain At least release, and long-felt woes redress.
In this stanza, the poet seems to be asking for some closure as she asks her lover to stay. She wants some closure so that her heart can be at peace and not feel distressed. The poet is aware of how things will end, but she still wants the lover to stay to get her some release. She wants to address all her grievances and come to terms with it.
Let not the blame of cruelty disgrace The honoured title of your godhead Love; Give not just cause for me to say a place Is found for rage alone on me to move.
In the following stanza, the poet blames ‘Love’, as love is personified in this stanza. She blames love for the pain, and she believes it is because of love that she had to suffer from so much rage and pain. Now, she believes that rage is the only thing that is helping her to go on in her life because she feels so much pain due to the betrayal by her lover.
O quickly end, and do not long debate My needful aid, lest help do come too late.
In the last couplet, we see a change in the poet’s mood as she pleads for help. She asks for help before it is too late. Here, the poet is talking about committing suicide and ending it all because she is in too much pain.
The tone of the poem is very depressing and dark as we see the ugly side of love. The poet tries to explain that love is not all about flowers and happiness. There is also another side of love where there is pain and agony. In this sonnet, the poet talks about her being betrayed by her lover. She displays her pain in the form of rhetorical questions. Then she talks about getting closure because she is unable to live in this pain anymore. She wants her lover to be there, even though he is the reason that she is in so much pain, but she wants him there so that she can get over him and move forward in life.
She also expresses her anger in the sonnet and blames ‘Love’, because if she had not fallen in love, then she wouldn’t be subjected to such pain. But now, anger is the only thing that helps her to move on. In the last stanza, we see the poet’s desperation as she pleads for help. She wants help as she is not able to take this pain anymore. She threatens to commit suicide if she does not get any help soon.