Department of English

Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

2202242  Introduction to the Study of English Poetry




Sonnet 54

(from Amoretti 1595)


Edmund Spenser

(1552 1599)


Of this worlds Theatre in which we stay, 

My love lyke the Spectator ydly sits, 
Beholding me that all the pageants play, 
Disguysing diversly my troubled wits. 
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,  5
And mask in myrth lyke to a Comedy: 
Soone after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I waile and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she beholding me with constant eye, 
Delights not in my merth nor rues my smart:  10


But when I laugh she mocks, and when I cry 
She laughes, and hardens evermore her hart. 
What then can move her? if nor merth nor mone,


She is no woman, but a sencelesse stone.    


Edmund Spenser




Poem Notes

Amoretti: Italian for "little loves"


Of this worlds Theatre in which we stay: A favorite Renaissance theme derived in part from Lucian's Menippos and further popularized by Erasmus's Praise of Folly; cf. Shakespeare, As You Like It 2.7.139.


mask: Put on a mask; also, act in a masque, an elite entertainment with symbolic costumes or "guises."  If the lover plays comedies when happy and tragedies when sad, his masks dramatize as much as they conceal.


with constant eye: Noteworthy in that women were often called inconstant; Elizabeth I defied the same stereotype with her motto semper eadem: "ever the same."


14  She is no woman, but a senceless stone: Some readers (e.g. Martz in pp. 804-9 in this Norton Critical Edition of Edmund Spenser's poetry) note in this sonnet a friendly wit that lightens the tone; the lover's seeming anger at his failure to move the lady may be more role-playing for her entertainment.



Edmund Spenser's Poetry: Authoritative Texts, Criticism.  3rd ed.  Eds. Hugh Maclean and Anne Lake Prescott.  New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.  608-9.  (The poem notes and some of the glosses are from this Norton Critical Edition)


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Last updated September 4, 2007