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Video:Renaissance Love Poems

with Zach Toombs

Renaissance love poems include some very famous works, such as Shakespeare's sonnets. Watch this About.com video to learn more about Renaissance love poems.See Transcript

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Transcript:Renaissance Love Poems

Hi, I'm Zach Toombs for About.com, and today, we're focusing on Renaissance love poems. The topic covers a broad array of poets, from Dante's Divine Comedy to Milton's Paradise Lost, to Spenser's The Fairie Queen to Shakespeare's Sonnets and Donne's love poetry, Renaissance Love Poems are widely circulated, celebrated and heralded to this day.  

Prominent Poets of the Renaissance

Poets of this genre include: John Donne, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlow, Andrew Marvell, Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare. Born in 12th century United Kingdom and stretching to the 17th century, but largely focusing on a period between 1550 and 1660, Renaissance love poetry highlights the conflict between sensual and spiritual love.

But was the poetry of this time about love? Or about sensual desire? Renaissance love poetry, in particular, grew under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, hence much of this poetry evolved in what is called the Elizabethan era, and stretched into the Spencerian period. Some of the metaphysical type of Renaissance poetry was imbued in simile and metaphor.  Love was described as a flower, a smell, a season, a bird.

William Shakespeare Was a Renaissance Love Poet

But anyone seeking to understand Renaissance Love Poems really need look first to William Shakespeare, whose sonnets are both memorable and recitable:

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?  Thou art more lovely and more temperate."

Shakespeare was instrumental in the development of the three genres:  Histories, Tragedies and Comedies.  But it is his love poems that are among the most recited. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets in all, each consisting of 14 lines:  Three four line stanzas, called quatrains, and a two line couplet.

Popularity of Renaissance Love Poems

Renaissance love poems burst into popularity in the late 1500s, an era of tremendous advancements in education. It was an era where the theatre blossomed, and individuals began to express themselves. The main themes in literature of the time focused on love, death, and the passage of time. Poets also wrote about unrequited love, belabored their own personal difficulties and addressed social injustices of the day. The term carpe diem -- or seize the day -- comes from the period of the Renaissance.  Or, of the impermanence of time, as Edmund Spenser wrote in his Sonnet 75:

"One day I wrote her name upon the strand; But came the waves and washed it away.”

And that's a brief look at Renaissance love poems. For more information, be sure to check out About.com.

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