AP English Language and Composition
Teacher: Dr. Stobaugh
September 23, 2014
The Theme in Edmund Spenser's "Sonnet 26"
"So every sweet with sour is tempered still, / That maketh it be coveted the more." (Spenser, "Sonnet 26", lines 11-12). In Edmund Spenser's "Sonnet 26", Spenser emphasized the notion that life is made sweeter by some kind of pain or obstacle. He recorded several beautiful flowers to evidence this notion. He then used this list of flowers to express that he may endure "little paine" to experience "endless pleasure" with the one he loved (lines 13-14).
"Sweet is the Rose, but growes upon a brere;"(line 1). What would a rose be without a thorn? Spenser believed that, in fact, the thorns, made the rose even more beautiful. Perhaps he believed that the thorn exemplified strength and resilience in such a delicate flower, or he may have simply believed that with such great beauty, there must be pain. Regardless, Spenser expressed his idea using flowers, such as the rose, to demonstrate that there cannot be pleasure without pain. Spenser continued his categorization through line 8, ending with "and sweet is Moly, but his root is ill." (line 8). In line 9, Spenser conjectured from nature "euery sweet with soure is tempered still," (line 9). However, Spenser deemed that this sourness made the object all the more pleasing: "that maketh it be coueted more:" (line 10). He goes on to say that objects that are gained effortlessly, are not as desirable as those that bring pain (lines11-12). Spenser ended this "amoretto" (little Cupid) expressing that the gain of endless pleasure is worth the little pain it brings (lines 13-14).
Although Spenser's "Sonnet 26" is but few lines, it is rich in meaning. Spenser reflected on the idea that everything, including life, was made sweeter by an obstacle or conflict. He used beautiful flowers to demonstrate this notion. Therefore, the motif in Edmund Spenser's "Sonnet 26" is that...
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