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The Genesis of Shakespeare's Sonnets: Spenser's Ruines of Rome: By Bellay

A. Kent Hieatt
PMLA
Vol. 98, No. 5 (Oct., 1983), pp. 800-814
DOI: 10.2307/462260
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462260
Page Count: 15
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The Genesis of Shakespeare's Sonnets: Spenser's Ruines of Rome: By Bellay
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Abstract

Sonnets has appeared to draw on antique topoi of permanence and change and to escape other sonnet sequences' intertextuality and attachment to a set of narrative and lyric conventions. In fact, Shakespeare extensively followed Spenser's nearby nonamatory sequence, translated from Du Bellay's Les Antiquitez de Rome. Numerous verbal and thematic resemblances (some exclusive to Ruines and Sonnets) show Shakespeare transmulting Spenser's image-a preeminent city ruined by time and the conflicts of will and of appetite among its contentious sons but immortalized in the literature inspired by its greatness-into another image: a preeminent youth, vulnerable to time and moral decay, who endures in Sonnets. Also, Shakespeare's early histories borrow verbally and thematically from Ruines' weakening of an otherwise invincible nation by strife. The nature of Shakespeare's transaction with Ruines remains to be investigated.

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