"On Monsieur's Departure"

Essay by vertigounboundUniversity, Master's March 2004

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"On Monsieur's Departure", with its highly interpretive nature and use of strong themes and appropriate literary devices, expresses the inner turmoil of its author, Queen Elizabeth, to the reader.

The basic concept of this 17th century poem is one of the divided passions of Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth loved her country with fierce loyalty and control, but also had her own personal needs, and though it is not entirely certain as to whom this poem was referencing to, it is speculated to be about either the 2nd Earl of Essex or the Duc d'Anjou (French duke of Anjou). Essex (Robert Derereaux) was 30 years Elizabeth's junior and was a charming, opinionated man with whom Elizabeth was completely enamored, but the relationship terminated when Essex and Elizabeth had a terrible fight and Essex directed an unsuccessful revolt against her. The tragedy pierced further when Elizabeth painfully agreed to have him executed.

The duke of Anjou, who later became King Henry III, was a prime member of the French royal family, being both the duke of Anjou and Alençon. He was an unattractive man, both body and face, but Elizabeth fancied him enough to allow a lengthy courtship by him. This courtship ended when the duke withdrew from the marriage negotiations in 1582, but there is uncertainty as to why. Elizabeth, if gaining nothing more from this arrangement, did secure a defense alliance and French aid against Spain. The country, in Elizabeth's mind, remained above her own personal longings - she never married and reigned as the proud Virgin Queen.

The first stanza of "On Monsieur's Departure" contain uses of Petrarchan conceit, paradox, and the theme of disassociation between the queen and her desires. The Petrarchan conceit (common in Elizabethan love poems) is seen for example in line 2, "I...