Time, death, and mutability : a study of themes in some poetry of the Renaissance - Spenser, Shakespeare, and Donne

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 

This study was undertaken in order to examine some examples of Renaissance poetry in the light of the themes of love, death, time, and mutability. The scope of the thesis has been restricted to the Mutabilitie Cantos and the Fowre Hymnes of Edmund Spenser; the Sonnets and Ovidian poems of Shakespeare; and the Songs and Sonets and Divine Poems of John Donne. The emphasis of the thesis rests on the poetry of John Donne; but to appreciate better the power of his synthesis of the sacred and profane, the author first examines the Christian idealism of Spenser and the "realism" of Shakespeare. Spenser is seen as the poet of ideals. He looks beyond the world of decay and time to a "Sabaoth of the Soul". His Hymnes. while not denying the possibility of love in time, see no way for romantic love to transcend death* Nor is earthly love of the same nature as man's love for God. Shakespeare, while recognizing the sway that Time holds over man, asserts the ability of love in friendship?and its expression in verse??triumph over change and decay. Unlike Spenser, he is not interested in ideal or eternal existences. Both poets have affinities with Donne. Like Spenser, Donne speaks in terms of eternity. Like Shakespeare, he affirms man's ability to overcome time and change in this world of mutability. His argumentative style and his synthesis of sacred and profane love set him apart. This study examines the varieties of experience found in his love poetry, culminating in his statement in such poems as The Canonization, The Anniversarie, and The Exstasie, that romantic love assumes the eternal stature of sacred love, yet never loses its attachment to physical experience. In his religious verse also love varies; man can be an inconstant lover of God f as well as of women. But always Donne stresses the continuity of experience from love of women to love of God, and the ability of both kinds of love to withstand time and change. The thesis has tried to avoid identification of life with art, the poet with the poem. Sources and antecedents have been used only where they illuminate the themes under scrutiny. Throughout the study, the ordering used for the poems is not intended to be chronological. The study is a triptych, examining the individual poets without drawing conclusions as to the superiority of one statement over another.


Thesis (M.A.) - Dept. of English - Simon Fraser University

Document type: 
Copyright remains with the author
Subject headings: 
Poetry, Modern.
Time in literature.
Senior supervisor: 
F. Candelaria
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.