The Theme of Love And Gender in Sonnets

How does Thomas Wyatt address the theme of love and gender in his sonnets? Sir Thomas Wyatt was an English poet in the 16th century credited with introducing the sonnet to English literature. His father Henry had been a Privy councillor of Henry VII and became a trusted advisor when Henry VIII ascended the throne in 1509. He married Elizabeth Brooke in 1520. He followed his father to the court and completed many diplomatic missions. His poems were only famous in the court and were published anonymously in the anthology of The court of Venus but it was never published under his name until after his death.

Tottel’s Miscellany was his first book to feature 15 years after his death.

Wyatt wanted to experiment with the English literature to make it more powerful and equalize its status with other European languages. He used to imitate and translate Italian sonnets but he also used to write of his own. In the Tottel’s Misceallany, his 96 love poems were published posthumously.

The most important were the 31 sonnets out of which ten of them were translations from Petrarch. Many people have assumed that he had an affair with Anne Boleyn in the early- to mid-1520s. They were acquaintances but it is not sure whether they shared a romantic relationship. Wyatt was imprisoned in the Tower of London for allegedly committing adultery with Anne Boleyn. It was due to his father’s friendship with Thomas Cromwell that he was released that year only. In prison, he might have witnessed Anne Boleyn’s execution with five other men with whom she was accused of adultery.

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In his poems, it is assumed that he mainly addresses to Anne Boleyn. The theme of love and gender is excellently portrayed in the two poems of Thomas Wyatt. In the poem, ‘Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind’ Wyatt doesn’t challenge gender roles within his society. The metaphor used in the poem prescribes distinct roles to the speaker and his beloved. In his poem, the speaker compares his love to a hunt that restricts the choice for women as they are relegated to the status of animals. Since the woman belongs to some other powerful man she has no choice but to reject the speaker’s plea. The woman doesn’t have many choices except to flee or be killed.

The men take an active role and women a passive role in relationships. The men act as pursuer whereas the women act as the pursued. The woman avoids the speaker such that he is forced to give up the hunt. The skill of her to elude the man to pursue her is not entirely her she possesses it because she is already in control of a powerful man. According to the poem, women can never be truly free, and freedom they get is due to protection by men. In the other poem of Wyatt, ‘They flee from me’ gender construction of normal renaissance is challenged. Wyatt surprises the readers by showing that the woman is the predator and the man is the victim.

In the first stanza, male domination is seen but in the second stanza the female dominates, she becomes the seducer whereas the speaker is seduced. She becomes the aggressive hunter seeking out male targets. New gender politics is seen in the poem. The poem shows a different perspective to the readers by arguing that men and women can be both passive and active. In the 3 stanzas of the poem the power of women increases. In the first stanza, a generalized pronoun is used so that it doesn’t refer to a single woman and shows a typical male dominant relationship. The speaker knew women to be submissive and they were willing to endanger their lives just to be with him but now they have become hunters seeking out male prey.

Work Cited

  1.  “Two sides of the same coin: How gender is depicted in poetry” GeneratePress. January 22, 2019. Web.
  2.  Altman, Toby. ‘Whoso List to Hunt, I Know where is an Hind.’ LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 8 May 2019. Web. 1 Nov 2019.
  3.  “They Flee from Me Themes” . Shmoop. 11 November 2008. 29 March 2020.
  4.  “Thomas Wyatt (Poet)”. .. Wikipedia. 11 February 2020.25 March 2020.

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The Theme of Love And Gender in Sonnets. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved from

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