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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

A Lover’s Complaint has always stirred impassioned responses among readers who have been both fascinated and perplexed by its strange beauty. The poem’s haunting exploration of a young maiden’s abandonment by an unscrupulous suitor challenges readers in remarkably direct ways, inviting us to examine our own responses to poetry and grief. This chapter argues that Shakespeare was here exploring the unique resources of narrative poetry to communicate intense emotional experience, and using the complaint tradition (usually associated with the fall of princes) to consider how men and women of different social status experienced sorrow. A sophisticated exploration of affect and sympathy, A Lover’s Complaint sheds light on both the sublimity of grief and the limits of compassion.

Keywords: complaint, emotions, compassion, sympathy, social class

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