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Analysis of Petrarch’s Sonnet 134 Essay

Based on the persona’s love that is unreciprocated by his beloved, the Poet illustrates in this sonnet, an internal conflict in the persona. The wholly bitter tone establishes a holistically integrating theme of being torn apart for love and also an atmosphere of histrionic resentment engorged with Petrarch’s hyperbolized emotions. Divided into an octet and a sestet, which are respectively divided into two quatrains and two triplets, the sonnet follows a strict formula of end-stopped lines and medial caesurae: “I find no peace || and have no arms for war |” (l. 1); The use of lineation in this sonnet adds to the conflict in the poem as tropic figures of speech that insinuate a sense of paradox are used ubiquitously: oxymora and antitheses are used to contrast ideas separated by the medial caesurae; “My jailer opens not, nor locks the door,” (l. 5) gives further evidence to the point postulated, how can a jailer not lock yet not open a door simultaneously? The end-stopped lines and the medial caesurae suggest a sense of finality and possibly a disheveled state of emotion as the abrupt pauses break the flow of the recitation and reflect the disturbances in the persona’s emotions, to me the fact that the poem keeps cycling forward as the paradoxical wheel that it is, intimates an anguished continuity.

Life is a conflict. That is just the way that it is. The octet pivots into the sestet through a Volta that does not propose a solution to the emotional conflicts but rather states “why” the Poet must suffer so, and it is proclaimed rather blamefully, that it is “his lady” who has gifted him with such torment — “for you || my lady || am I in this state |” (l. 14); the change in syntax here serves to intimate an overtly dramatic tone as well as bring emphasis to “I”, hinting a bruise to the poet’s ego. It is common knowledge that a Petrarchan sonnet traditionally has the rhyme scheme: abba abba cde cde; but it is clear that this is not the case here. Using an inconsistent rhyme scheme: abab abab cde cde, the Poet corroborates the inconsistent emotions of the persona, wavering towards extremes. The poem is dominated by the rubato iambic pentameter that most sonnets are expected to have. The regularity of the iambic pentameter results in a continuous feeling: it is a meter of acceptance, as the true nature of life is not different, it too is continuous and one must accept it. But it is not without exceptions.

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