Date of Award

Fall 2005

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Elizabeth H Hageman


In this study I argue that at least four poets: three aristocrats from the Sidney family---Sir Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney Herbert, and Mary Wroth---with a history of service to Tudor monarchs, and one non-aristocratic writer, Aemilia Lanyer, who claimed to be a poetical descendant of a Sidney, responded to the efforts of Elizabeth I and James I to restrict the power of the aristocracy by claiming a right to offer counsel to their monarch. Though no one of them could claim a position from which to offer direct counsel, they each exploited the Petrarchan discourse of love to assert an expanded role for themselves by writing poetry that offers counsel concerning the most intimate aspects of a monarch's rule---the nature and temper of his or her personal desires---in ways that formal counsel might not. Where they could not claim an intimacy with their monarch, they dramatized the conflicts which the commitments of the monarch's desires created with their efforts for a just public rule. In his sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella, Sir Philip Sidney extends of his more formal counsel to the Queen regarding her affair with the Duke of Alencon. I read Philip's sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, and niece, Mary Wroth, as drawing on Sidney's idea of fiction to write their own counsel to the monarch. Philip's sister Mary began her career as a poet translating Robert Garnier's play, Marc Antonie, which depicts the frustration of counselors in addressing a monarch's passions and examines the personal triumphs and public costs of great princes in love. Their niece, Lady Mary Wroth wrote a sonnet sequence, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, which dramatizes the struggles of King James' Queen Anne and his favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, to love and serve a man of multiple and wavering affections like the King himself. Aemilia Lanyer, too, borrows from Sidney's idea of poetry in her collection of poems, the Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Writing as a spokesperson for the aristocracy, she identifies a virtue particular to women ("faire virtue") without which King James' rule is not truly Christian.