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date: 17 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Shakespeare’s poetry gains much by being read in the light of the Italian texts that founded both the genres he exploits: the Ovidian erotic narrative and the sonnet sequence. Italian poets such as Anguillara and Dolce had already adapted episodes from the Metamorphoses for stanzaic poems and their treatment of the Venus and Adonis story establishes the essential contours of Shakespeare’s version. Reading the Sonnets as part of a tradition that derives not only from Petrarch’s Canzoniere but also from Dante’s Vita Nuova illuminates such aspects of the genre as the relation between putative autobiography and exemplary narrative, stasis and progression, the sequence as open-ended form, and the corruption of vision. Finally, as an example of how Petrarchism enables some of the characteristic achievements of the late Renaissance, one may look briefly at the poetry of Michelangelo which foreshadows Shakespeare’s Sonnets by a thematic expansion which embraces problems of social and sexual identity and questions the validity of analogy as poetic argument.

Keywords: Dante, Vita Nuova, Petrarch, canzoniere, Lodovico Dolce, idillio, sonnet sequence, narrative, autobiography, aesthetic stasis

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