The Petrarchan convention and Tudor court politics in poetry of Thomas Wyatt and Philip Sidney

Ok-Sook Hong, Marquette University


This study attempts to examine how the two Tudor poets, Thomas Wyatt and Philip Sidney, revised the Petrarchan convention in relation to the Tudor court politics, which makes the background of their poems. Wyatt and Sidney employ the Petrarchan convention in order to explain and understand their political careers. The essence of the Petrarchan convention can be summed up as the relationship between the poet and the lady in which the poet idealizes the lady as the object of desire but the lady remains unattainable beyond the poet's reach. At the heart of their use of Petrarchan convention lies the patronage system as the means of distributing power in Tudor politics. The first chapter of this study introduces the main issues of Wyatt and Sidney's poems. Based on the criticism of New Historicism, I will survey the political environment, especially their relationship to their monarchs, Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Wyatt and Sidney apparently discard politics and choose to write the Petrarchan love poems, however, their lyrics still reflect their political careers, which they find precarious or disappointing. The next two chapters will discuss poems of Wyatt and Sidney respectively. In the second chapter, I will focus on Wyatt's courtly lyrics which reflect Wyatt's perception of the relationship between the lord and the courtier and his anxiety about the insecure court life and the strategy of dissimulation through the Petrarchan convention. The third chapter will discuss Sidney's Astrophil and Stella . Though Sidney pretends not to be interested in politics, Astrophills courtship of Stella echoes Elizabethan court politics, which applied the Petrarchan love, convention to the relationship between Elizabeth and her male courtiers. Through contrasting the affinity and dissimilarity between Elizabeth and Stella, Sidney gains an insight into court politics, in which he never was honored by the queen.

Recommended Citation

Hong, Ok-Sook, "The Petrarchan convention and Tudor court politics in poetry of Thomas Wyatt and Philip Sidney" (1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9912727.