Mary Beth Westbrook
May 28, 2010
In Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, Mary Wroth stretches the stereotypical role of the female in Renaissance writing. By giving voice to the female Pamphilia, Wroth turns the traditional role of the female from passive beloved into active lover. In Sonnet #1, Pamphilia alludes to Venus and her son bringing a flaming heart to her chest. This imagery would have been deemed inappropriate for a woman to express. Women were supposed to be cold and aloof never letting their lovers succumb to their desires. The image of Cupid placing "one heart flaming more than all the rest" shows that Pamphilia now has a burning desire for her beloved and can no longer be cool and aloof. This difference can be expressly witnessed when comparing Wroth's Pamphilia to Sidney's Stella in Astrophil and Stella.
Unlike her uncle, Philip Sidney, Wroth does not convey the paradox of a sweet hell for Pamphilia.
Instead, Wroth shows Pamphilia as completely resistant to love as an indecent concept that must be hidden. Sidney, in Sonnet 87, describes Stella's show of love when Astrophil must depart. Astrophil proclaims his delight in seeing "that tears did in her eyes appearÃ¢ÂÂ¦sighs her sweetest lips did part" (Sidney, sonnet 87, lines 6-7). Stella's show of emotion causes Astrophil to have hope and realize that Stella does indeed love him. Pamphilia, on the other hand, warns "Take heed mine eyes, how you your looks do cast/ Lest they betray my heart's most secret thought" (Wroth, sonnet 39, lines, 1-2). Pamphilia commands her eyes to not betray her secret love as Stella's eyes do. In sonnet 16, Pamphilia asks questions about resisting "Love's purblind charms," wondering if there is any reason to not resist falling in love (Wroth, sonnet 16, line 9). Pamphilia...