Carolyn Campbell
Final Paper
June 3, 2001
ENGL 290
Washington and Lee University


Lady Mary Wroth: An Overdetermined Self Manifested in Writing

        Although Lady Mary Wroth wrote during a rich literary period in English history, her work was not widely published until years after her death. Perhaps most renowned for Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, the first sonnet sequence of the Renaissance to be written and voiced by a woman, Wroth presents a highly innovative and unique style in her writing. In her prose as well as in her poetry, Lady Mary Wroth incorporates a dualistic balance of independence from and reliance on the works published by the male authors of and before her time. This balance is demonstrated in The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, which carries compelling comparisons to Phillip Sidney’s Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. Furthermore, this complex duality was evident in her social life, as she often fluctuated between a life of public expression and private seclusion. As a writer, she fosters conflicting themes of autonomy and passivity, passionate liberty and legalism, action and stillness, and constancy and infidelity, which are apparent in the discourses of Pamphilia to Amphilanthus. Although these themes often appear contradictory within her writing, they instead represent the various shades of character that color Wroth’s intricate manner of perception. Moreover, her diverse yet interwoven identities as a woman, a Sidney, an artist, and a lover combine to create the subtle sense of overdetermination in her work, which in turn displays her complex understandings of love and the female self, concepts lacking adequate representation before Wroth’s time. Critical studies and close readings of her works, such as the Urania and Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, provide textual illustrations of Wroth’s complexly overdetermined attitudes towards love and womanhood.

        Born the eldest daughter of Sir Robert Sidney and Lady Barbara Gamage in 1587, Lady Mary Wroth entered a life of privilege and social prestige. Raised in their estate at Penshurst, Wroth grew accustomed to her family’s active involvement in the courts of Elizabeth and James I. Equally important was her introduction to the literary world at an early age. Not only did her father write a sonnet sequence himself, but her uncle, the renowned Sir Philip Sidney, and her aunt, Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, were published authors as well. As she matured, she was soon betrothed to Robert Wroth, and they wed at Penshurst in 1599. Her husband’s favor with James I earned Wroth an active role in court activities as well as a friendship with Queen Anne. During her marriage, Wroth also became active as a poet and a patron, following the example set by others in her family such as Sir Philip Sidney. Although she pursued the venues common to the members of her social class, Wroth defied many of its conventions. She developed an intimate relationship with her first cousin, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, with whom she had two children. And while it is uncertain whether Wroth’s affair began prior to or after her husband’s death in 1614, Pembroke maintained a marriage throughout the relationship. Nevertheless, the death of her husband left Wroth in significant debt. She also experienced an open decline in social status as her illicit affair was revealed, adding to the financial problems she faced. Thus Wroth’s social life consisted of a mixed devotion to the conventions of her society and to the passions beneath her practical existence. Amidst her gradual social decline, Wroth turned to writing as means of involvement and self-expression.

        Initially beginning with prose, Wroth wrote The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, a pastoral piece whose first section was publicly published. This work soon gained negative attention due to numerous accusations that it falsely depicted several noblemen as corrupt and violent figures through the very thin disguise of fiction. However, Wroth soon applied her skills to poetry as well. Her sonnet sequence, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, innovates customary means of expression through a feminine narrative. Relying heavily on the traditional tropes and stylistic tools of the Petrarchan sonnet, Wroth revised and in many ways inverted this style, rendering a uniquely different presentation of the sonnet. Together these two pieces capture Wroth’s approach to poetic convention, human relationships, and personal identity.

        Although Wroth was a patron to literature, she did not begin to truly develop her writing career until after the death of her husband and the publicity of her affair. Surrounded by family writers all of her life, Wroth easily found the legitimacy and sense of authority needed to become a writer. She did not, however, model herself upon her aunt, Mary Sidney Herbert, who focused on religious pieces and spiritual reflection. Instead, she primarily studied her father and uncle’s styles, modeling her own work after theirs. Wroth’s first work, a prose piece entitled The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, contains many of the stylistic and structural techniques found in her uncle’s Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. While resemblance can be noted in the titles themselves, the similarities between these two pieces penetrate the texts as well. A prose narrative, interrupted by occasional sonnets and lyric exchanges throughout, structures both pieces. However, Wroth’s Urania provides revisions that are particular to her gender status as a woman. Because Sidney and Wroth are of the same familial background and social status, their difference in gender is a primary source for their texts’ contrasts, which in turn draw attention to the emotions and experiences particular to the male and female separately.

        In numerous sections of the Urania, Wroth models the plot and themes present in the Arcadia, yet inverts them to produce her own original perspective. Maureen Quilligan examines one scene in the Arcadia when two shepherds long for their fellow shepherd, Urania, who has helped them to transcend their lives as field workers to become poets as well. She then notes the scene in the Urania where Urania, a shepherdess, grieves the loss of self-understanding and identity as she discovers that she was born into a class above that of a shepherd. Whereas Sidney’s shepherds celebrate their newfound sense of self-worth and power, Worth’s Urania mourns over her new "lack of self presence" (Quilligan 310). Here Wroth interrupts the pastoral with a Petrarchan sonnet in which Urania laments her loss. However, Wroth alters the sonnet’s traditional function, which is to voice a lover’s suffering from the absence or unrequited affection of his beloved. Instead, Urania grieves over the loss of the relationship and love she once had for her own self, leaving her in a state of despair similar to those often described in other Petrarchan sonnets: "And such am I, who daily ending live, / Wayling a state which can no comfort give" (Quilligan 311). Thus through the female character of Urania, Wroth explores the notion of love and the dimensions it unfolds when studied in terms of self-understanding. Although she closely models this section of the Urania after Sidney’s Arcadia, Wroth employs her version to incorporate a female voice and to depict love’s private role in one’s interpersonal relationship.

        Prior to Wroth, males held the predominant voice in published sonnets. Although the female is often addressed, described, and even implored within these sonnets, never does she receive the opportunity to truly express and defend herself. Wroth however is the first to incorporate a female speaker into the sonnet and provide an altered perception of the issues revolving the subject of love. Quilligan notes another possible intention underlying Wroth’s reversal of the male and female roles: "It is entirely possible that by exaggerating – in a feminine voice – the very masochistic-sounding laments of her borrowed Petrarchan poetics, Wroth is in the process of forging a language for the very "self" that might potentially exist separate from the institutions (such as marriage) that inexorably organized women’s social lives" (321). Although Wroth devotes an entire sonnet sequence to Pamphilia’s relationship with Amphilanthus, she initially introduces them in the Urania. Pamphilia, whose name means "all-loving," is constant in her affection for Amphilanthus ("lover of two"), even when he does not respond with mutual sentiments:

Heart drops distilling like a new cut-vine
Weepe for the paines that doe my soul oppresses
Eyes doe no lesse
For if you weepe not, be not mine
Silly woes that cannot twine
An equal griefe in such excesse" (U3.1-6).
        Here Pamphilia’s very heart weeps for Amphilanthus, who fails to respond to her with mutual sentiments of deep affection. Thus Wroth conveys the sincerity, depth, and potential of the feminine emotion outside of the walls of marriage, a social institution initiated by a man’s love for a woman, whose mutual response can often appear as merely a "reflective repetition of male desire" (Quilligan 325). The Urania captures Wroth’s first published effort as a writer to skillfully create a work that offers an inverted revision of the themes common to all literature.

        Following the publication of the first part of The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, several noblemen accused Wroth of fashioning characters after them as a means of indirectly publicizing their hidden corruption. One such nobleman was Edward Denny, Baron of Waltham, who accused Wroth of modeling the episode of Seralius and his father-in-law after him and his son-in-law. Denny attacked Wroth in two letters and an aggressive poem entitled, "To Pamphilia from the father-in-law of Seralius":

These slanderous flying f{l}ames rise from the pott
For potted witts inflamd are raging hott
…Thus hast thou made thy self a lying wonder
Fooled and their Bables seldome part asunder
Work o th’ Workes leave idle bookes alone
For wise and worthier women have writte none (qtd. in Roberts 33).
Although Wroth managed her literary career in a relatively reserved manner, she did not submit to Denny’s belittling of her writing. Instead, she responded with an equally hostile and insistent series of letters. In addition, she too wrote a poem to counter argue his accusations against her:
These slanderous flying flames raisd from the pott
You know are false and raging makes you hott
…Thus you have made your self a lying wonder
Fooles and their pastimes should not part asunder
Take this then now lett railing rimes alone
For wise and worthier men have written none (qtd. in Roberts 34-35).
Important to notice here is that Wroth interprets Denny’s poetic attack on Pamphilia as being addressed specifically towards her. Wroth’s direct response to Denny thus demonstrates the intimate relation she had to the character of Pamphilia, suggesting that much of her personal emotions are conveyed through Pamphilia’s role. In the midst of her blatant efforts to defend herself as well as her work before others, Wroth soon requested that any remaining published copies of her Urania be removed from the market, admitting that they "were solde against my minde I never purposing to have had them published" (Roberts 35). This dispute regarding the Urania conveys the complex life Wroth led as both a public and private writer. She claimed never to have personally pursued the publishing of her book nor to offend anyone with its contents. Nevertheless, she refused to be criticized for her work and made unrelenting efforts to defend it and her talent. Although there was far less controversy surrounding the sonnets of Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, which was never independently published during her life, the sequence captures the numerous complexities and inner conflicts that Wroth dealt with as a woman and as a writer.

        As first seen in the Urania, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus again reverses the roles of lover and beloved that are commonly found in Petrarchan sonnets. Similar to Quilligan’s argument concerning the Urania is Naomi Miller’s opinion that "Wroth creates a model of affirmation in the figure of Pamphilia, a sonneteer whose female voice re-forms previously male claims to love" (296). Thus by inverting the roles of men and women in the sonnet, Wroth provides Pamphilia with the authority to make new claims within the subject of love. Miller also notes the tendency amongst male sonneteers to cast blame on the lady, assume strong sentiments of self-pity, and project themselves merely as victims. This tendency can be noted in Sidney’s sonnet 89 of Astrophil and Stella, where Stella’s eyes are the sun and deprive Astrophil of any light:

Stella’s eyes, wont to give me my day,
Leaving my Hemisphere, leave me in night,
…Languisht with horrors of the silent night,
Suffering the evils both of the day and night,
While no night is more darke then is my day,
…That living thus in blackest winter night,
I feele the flames of hottest sommer say" (89.2-3,8-10,13-14).
Here Sidney employs a contrast of light and dark imagery to express Astrophil’s helpless subjection to Stella’s neglectful control. However, Pamphilia’s feminine voice "moves beyond blame or self-pity to celebrate the ‘true forme of love’ apart from the caprice of her male beloved" (Miller 296). Rather than cast accusations, Pamphilia too acknowledges the grief she suffers in the absence of Amphilanthus’ affection for her: "You endless torments that my rest opress / How long will you delight n my sad paine?" (P12.1-2). Yet in the midst of grief, Pamphilia resolves to endure love’s pain by recognizing its irreversible hold and parting with her freedom: "Why should wee nott loves purblind charmes resist? / Must wee bee servile, doing what hee list? / …Butt O my hurt, makes my lost hart confess / I love, and must: So farwell liberty" (P14.9-10&13-14). Thus Wroth employs Pamphilia’s feminine voice in this sonnet discourse to project a perspective that revises previous assessments of love, constructing a model of man and woman as its mutual counterparts: "To joine two harts as in one frame to move; / Two bodies, butt one soule to rule the minde; / …this kind / Content of lovers wittniseth true love" (P82.3-4, 7-8). Furthermore, this reassessment provides Pamphilia with both authority and equal accountability, suggesting that Wroth’s diverse roles in love, namely as a wife and an adulterer, influence Pamphilia’s amorous discourses. And in addition to her alteration of genders in the sonnets’ approach to love, but she also revises the numerous, traditional techniques involved.

        In Pamphilia to Amphilanthus’ 103 sonnets, Wroth employs many of the common Petrarchan components, such as structure, diction, and imagery, to model it after other published sequences. Much like her prose writing, Wroth’s sonnet sequence is often compared to Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. For example, Wroth imitates her uncle’s selection of a name of Greek derivation for the sequence’s protagonist. Furthermore, both sonnets are centered on the protagonist’s endeavors to win the affection of the beloved through poetic discourse. And as Heather Dubrow notes, Wroth shares her uncle’s preoccupation with the fluctuation between autonomy and subservience in a love relationship. This connection is apparent throughout many of their sonnets, as both make reference to the notion of subservience with the language of liberty. For example, Sidney incorporates such language to convey his enslavement to love’s tyrannous reign:

At length to Love’s decrees I, forc’d, agreed,
Yet with repining at so partiall lot.
Now even that footstep of lost libertie
Is gone, and now like slave-born Muscovite,
I call it praise to suffer Tyrannie (2.8-12).
In Wroth’s eighth sonnet (P8), she describes her helpless transformation into a lover with a similar technique:
Butt now, itt seemes, thou would’st I should thee love;
I doe confess, t’was thy will made mee chuse;
And thy faire showes made mee a lover prove
When I my freedom did, for paine refuse (P8.9-12).
        While Wroth’s diction and focus often parallel those of Sidney, she derives some of her thematic ideas from Shakespeare as well. For example, Dubrow notes that both focus heavily on the ways that betrayal, inconstancy, and suspicion taint love’s perfection. This shared focus is evident in Wroth’s eighteenth sonnet and Shakespeare’s ninety-third:
Thou suff’rest faulsest shapes my soul t’affright
…When I (a poore foole made by thee) think joy
Doth flow, when thy fond shadow doe destroy
My that while senceles self, left free to thee (P18.5&9-11)

So shall I live, supposing thou art true,
Like a deceived husband; so love’s face
May still seem love to me, though altered new;
Thy looks with me, thy heart in other place (93.1-4).

Both Shakespeare and Wroth dwell frequently on appearance and reality, describing their acceptance of deceiving facades despite recognition of the truth. Thus Wroth draws on the tropes and themes presented in the works of her fellow writers, suggesting a certain sense of dependence on the traditions established for the Petrarchan sonnet.

        The initial sonnet of Pamphilia to Amphilanthus introduces, as Dubrow argues, Wroth’s appropriation of Petrarchism, a tendency that runs throughout the entire sequence. First, she sets the sonnet in a dream vision, a context commonly understood as providing the speaker with the ability to fulfill intimate wishes and desires. In the dream, Wroth stages Venus and Cupid, two mythological messengers of love that are popularly used in sonnet sequences. However, this sonnet employs such traditional techniques for a different end. Whereas power struggles in love often occur between two lovers, such as Astrophil and Stella, this sonnet stages the gendered conflict between Venus and Cupid with Pamphilia as their subject. Dubrow argues that this staging creates a scene of "binary, gendered conflict" where Cupid is reduced to a subservient position and Venus is exalted as the goddess and authoritative voice in the relationship: "I sawe: wher sate bright Venus Queene of love, / And att her feete her sonne, still adding fire / To burning hearts which she did hold above" (P1.6-8). Yet despite this display of feminine autonomy, Pamphilia herself is quite passive. She does not fulfill her desires in this vision, but instead, dreams of an unfulfilled love and the pain it brings. Dreaming, Pamphilia is not free to be active and controlling, but rather, obediently passive and helpless: "Hee her obay’d, and martir’d my poore hart" (12). Thus Wroth creates a sense of division within the female persona through Venus and Pamphilia, who together depict the dual nature of passivity and authority often experienced in the face of love. This first sonnet establishes Wroth’s stylistic originality as well as her intricate perception of love. Though suffering from the pangs of love, Wroth’s Pamphilia remains passive and accepting of her current state. This depiction greatly contrasts a common approach of other poets. For example, in his Idea in Sixtie Three Sonnets, Drayton experiences unrequited love and responds by firmly commanding Cupid to grant his wishes:

Thou purblind Boy, since thou hast been so slacke
To wound her Heart, whose Eyes have wounded me,
…I conjure thee by all that I have nam’d
To make her love, or CUPID be thou damn’d (36.1-2&13-14).
Though frustrated with love and placed before its prime authorities, Wroth’s Pamphilia is neither strictly submissive nor autonomous. Rather, she is a commingling of the two, accepting the limitations as well as the demands that love places on her: "I, waking hop’d as dreames itt would depart / Yett since: O me: a lover I have binn" (P1.13-14). Despite this open acknowledgement of her entrapment, Pamphilia cannot relieve herself from repeated, rivaling emotions.

        These attitudes of autonomy and submission are further complicated throughout the sequence as Pamphilia frequently struggles with her battling sentiments of love and despair. Although the first sonnet projects Venus as representative of Pamphilia’s notion of autonomy, Pamphilia employs this power to explore her relationship with Cupid, whom she later deems the "Great King of Love" (P89.11). Though it seems contradictory for Pamphilia to fluctuate in degrees of both loyalty and self-assurance, this floundering illustrates Wroth’s recognition of the intricately indefinite sense of ambivalence that love often yields. Sonnet 76 captures Pamphilia’s battling sentiments as she confesses to Cupid her erroneous chastisement of his flaws:

O pardon, Cupid I confess my fault
Then mercy grant me in soe just a kind
For treason never lodged in my mind
Against thy might soe much as in a thought (P76.1-4).
After confessing, Pamphilia acknowledges her chastisement as "folly" that in the face of Cupid’s "fury" has rendered her only personal "harme." Cursing her mistake and exalting Cupid’s "glory," Pamphilia returns submissively to love’s authority: "And give a crowne unto thy endless prayse / Which shall thy glory, and thy greatnes raise / More then thes poore things could thy honor spite" (P76.12-14). Through this sonnet Wroth demonstrates the conflicting emotions endured during one’s journey in the "labourinth" of love, an emotion that defies the various simplifications often placed upon it.

        Wroth further develops love’s contradictory effects on Pamphilia in Pamphilia to Amphilanthus by incorporating dueling images of liberal passion and strict legalism within individual sonnets. These seemingly opposite emotional responses also assist to develop Wroth’s complex perception of love, as found in the many dimensions of her own character. As a young woman, she committed to the legal ties of marriage and became the wife of Robert Wroth. However, ceremonious oaths did not prevent Wroth and her cousin Pembroke from fulfilling their ardent deisres. Together they defied the boundaries of matrimony and of social decorum, though the degrees of penalty for such defiance were foreseeable and grim. Barbara Lewalski explores the impact of social ideologies on women writers, including Wroth, in their struggles to develop a strong sense of self. Specifically, Lewalski argues that these women "did not of course float free of the ideology and institutions that structured Jacobean society," and yet they proved that "inner resistance and a critical consciousness can develop even while ideological conformity is being rigorously enforced" (3). As a wife, and later, an adultress, Wroth captures the mixed loyalties and social influences Lewalski describes in her argument. Thus in developing her "authorial identity," Wroth draws from her experiences with conformity and rebellion, a practice that is evident in the mixed dictions of legalism and romantic zeal in Pamphilia to Amphilanthus.

        In the same manner that Pamphilia’s sense of authority alters throughout the sequence, so does her emotional energy oscillate between rational and romantic outlets. In poems 77-90, entitled "A Crowne of Sonetts dedicated to Love," Wroth stages Pamphilia in an emotional maze where she must use her heart and mind to find her way out:

In this strang labourinth how shall I turne?
Wayes are on all sids while the way I miss:
If to the right hand, ther, in love I burne;
Lett mee goe forward, therin danger is" (P77.1-4).
Within this "labourinth" of love, Pamphilia faces a multiplicity of options amidst the love that burns within her heart. With this organized and sequenced context, Wroth illustrates the frustrated deliberation, confusion, and inner-conflict one endures while weaving through love’s intricately woven course. Accepting the challenge before her, Pamphilia resolves to rely on love itself amidst sentiments of disorientation and distress:
Thus lett mee take the right, or left hand way;
…I must thes doubts indure with out allay
Or help, butt traveile find for my best hire;
Yett that which most my troubled sence doth move
Is to leave all, and take the thread of love (9.11-14).
However, despite Pamphilia’s decision to choose the "thread of love" to guide her through this "labourinth," Wroth frequently adds complexity to Pamphilia’s seemingly passionate decision by discussing it with the language of reason.

        Apparent in the corona is Wroth’s repeated use of courtly and legal discourse. For example, in sonnet 86, Wroth illustrates this cool and even impersonal attitude as Pamphilia describes love and its virtue with a keen sense of rationality:

Bee from the court of Love, and reason torne
For Love in reason now doth putt his trust,
Desert, and liking are together borne
Children of love, and reason parents just,
Reason adviser is… (P86.1-5).
Here Pamphilia speaks with highly judicial language, making reference to "the court of Love," and "Reason" as the "adviser" to love. Later in the sonnet, she alludes to "The government" of which love is the "crowne," demonstrating Wroth’s opinion that love can often be managed in a legalistic manner. Lewalski argues as well that within this sonnet arises "the rightly ordered internal state: Love as ruler, Reason as adviser, the two as the parents of ‘Desert, and liking.’ Such an ordered state banishes ‘wantones’ and unruly desires, permitting the proper Triumph of Love, defined as constancy" (Lewalski 261). This idealistic, structured notion of a love hierarchy is also evident in the corona’s thirteenth sonnet (P89), where Pamphilia "offers herself formally, along with her poetic crown, to the great monarch Love": "Great King of Love, my soule from fained smarts / Or thought of change I offer to your trust / This crowne, my self, and all that I have more"(P89.11-13). Although Wroth subjects Pamphilia’s discourses to political and legalistic terminology, the corona concludes without any "rightly ordered internal state." In the final sonnet, Pamphilia remains somewhat bewildered in her quest to weave through love’s maze: "Soe though in Love I fervently doe burne, / In this strange labourinth how shall I turne?"(P90.13-14). Still burning with love’s unquenched passion, Pamphilia has yet to arrive at a single solution that will produce peace and self-assurance.

        Throughout the remaining sonnets of Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, Wroth also employs Pamphilia to demonstrate a passionate counter-approach to love by incorporating a more intuitive, emotional diction. While addressing her relationships with Amphilanthus and Cupid, Pamphilia’s attitude is often heated, frustrated, and even whimsical. For example, in sonnet 98, she recalls a moment in which she saw her beloved and experienced an unexpected surge of "Fear, and desire":

When I beheld the Image of my deere
With greedy lookes mine eyes would that way bend,
Fear, and desire did inwardly contend;
Fear to bee mark’d, desire to drawe still neere (P98.1-4).
In these first lines, Wroth captures the passionate confusion of battling emotions, which "inwardly contend" in Pamphilia’s heart as she admires Amphilanthus. Wrestling with whether to remain unseen or to approach him, Pamphilia’s soul encounters a spirit "Which boldness waranted" and poses as her own "genius." Wroth expresses the intensity of Pamphilia’s emotional upheaval here by describing it as an invisible "speritt" capable of conquering her. However, Pamphilia’s inner-conflict is stronger than this spirit, forcing her to doubt its authority and to undergo further introspection:
…yett I durst nott lend
My eyes in trust wher others seemed soe cleare,
Then did I search from whence this danger ‘rose
If such unworthynes in mee did rest
As my sterv’d eyes must nott with sight bee blest (7-11).
Amidst this quarrel between self-doubt and jealous desire, Pamphilia becomes almost paralyzed in emotional distress. By staging this dispute in Pamphilia’s heart and mind, Wroth narrates the process one undergoes while experiencing sentiments at odds with each other in the face of the beloved. She wrestles with whether to trust her "sterv’d" eyes’ immediate response to physical spectacle or her heart’s sense of sight, which is "unseene of jealouse eye"(13). Pamphilia’s resolution illustrates the prestigious power with which Wroth esteems the heart. By deciding to trust her heart, where the beloved’s "truer Image shall in triumph lye," Pamphilia asserts the ability to transcend overwhelming inner-conflict through reliance on the honesty and truth of the soul.

        While Pamphilia’s deliberative and seemingly dawdled experience in love fills the text of Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, Wroth completes the sequence with a sense of peaceful resolution and closure. In the final sonnets, Pamphilia confronts the threat of Amphilanthus committing infidelity, a love crime inherently implied in his name’s meaning, "lover of two." Her awareness of lustful betrayal is evident in sonnet 85, where it is described as a "vice" for which man should be "asham’d":

If lust bee counted love t’is faulcely nam’d
By wikednes a fayrer gloss to sett
Upon that vice, which else makes men asham’d
In the owne frase to warrant butt beget(85.9-12).
Nevertheless, Wroth provides Pamphilia with the power to combat this vice and find assurance in her own ability to be a faithful, constant woman. This discovery is evident in the closing sonnets, where Pamphilia’s tone drastically transforms. First, in sonnet 101, she holds a certain distaste for her constantly fueled passion, which "No time, noe roome, noe thought, or writing can / Give rest, or quiett"(1-2). And although she later describes it as a force that can "please," it is yet able to "Rule" and "wounde" her(7). However, in the final sonnet, Pamphilia expresses a newfound sense of peaceful acceptance as she addresses her muse in the opening lines:
My muse now hapy, lay thy self to rest,
Sleepe in the quiett of a faithfull love,
Write you noe more, butt lett thes phant’sies move
Some other harts, wake nott to new unrest (103.1-4).
Pamphilia’s resignation from the throes of emotional turmoil conveys her turn towards reliance on "the quiett of a faithfull love." Ascribing to constancy, for which she is named, Pamphilia reflects on her laborious journey and celebrates her love’s faithful endurance: "And thus leave off, what’s past showes you can love, Now lett your constancy your honor prove" (13-14). Pamphilia’s resolution conveys Wroth’s attempt to land anew at an inner state exempt from love’s confines of emotional turmoil and infidelity.

        Pamphilia’s dramatic change in tone and sudden sense of closure in the final sonnet illustrate Wroth’s innovative concept of love, which Lewalski describes as moving away from "the bondage of chaotic passion to the ‘freedom’ of self-chosen constancy" (262). However, unlike Pamphilia, Wroth does not demonstrate such a simple, steady practice of constancy in her own love relationships. Although it is not perfectly clear whether her affair with Pembroke began before or after her husband’s death, Wroth’s relationships do not resonate qualities of honored fidelity. She bore two of Pembroke’s children, who was in fact married and "linked with several female courtiers"(Roberts 24). Thus Pamphilia’s straightforward resolution at the sequence’s end does not perfectly mirror Wroth’s practices in reality. However, in the same manner that Amphilanthus’ inconstancy counters Pamphilia’s vow of constancy, Wroth’s life manifests numerous conflicting identities and ideals, only one of which is her sequence’s closing celebration of fidelity. Therefore this celebration contributes a sense of completion and finality to the piece but does not dictate Wroth’s entire approach to women and the feminine self. Rather, her rivaled, overdetermined attitudes reverberate throughout the various dimensions of Wroth’s intimate life, authorial style, and thematic arguments.

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Moore, Mary B. Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism.
        Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.

Quilligan, Maureen. "The Constant Subject: Instability and Female Authority in Wroth’s Urania Poems,"
        Soliciting Interpretation: Literary Theory and Seventeenth-Century English Poetry.
        Elizabeth D. Harvey and Katharine Eisaman Maus, Eds.
        Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Quilligan, Maureen. "Feminine Endings: The Sexual Politics of Sidney’s and Spenser’s Rhyming,"
        The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print.  Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty S. Travitsky, Eds.
        Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1990.

Roberts, Josephine A., ed. The Poems of Lady Mary Wroth.
        Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univeristy Press, 1983.

Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
        Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997.

Wall, Wendy. The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance.
        Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Waller, Gary.  The Sidney Family Romance: Mary Wroth, William Herbert, and the Early Modern Construction of Gender.
        Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993.

Text copyright ©2002 Carolyn Campbell. All Rights Reserved.
Published by Luminarium through express written permission.

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