Expanding Poetic Consciousness : Shakespeare, Thomas Gray And Mary Collier

Expanding Poetic Consciousness : Shakespeare, Thomas Gray And Mary Collier

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Brian Baglioni

Professor Tague

BRL: Epic to Novel-01


Expanding Poetic Consciousness:

Shakespeare, Thomas Gray and Mary Collier

From the 16th century to the 18th century, the convention and content of

poetry was in flux. It was constantly subject to change as poets developed their own

unique understanding of the world around them, highlighting realities of the world

that were previously ignored or neglected and reflecting these ideas in their poetry.

Shakespeare, Thomas Gray and Mary Collier are examples of poets who challenged

the accepted traditions of poetic convention. They adapted their prose from the

poets that preceded them but not without exercising their own rendition in its

execution. Such poets were innovators of their time: they pushed the boundaries of

what could be conveyed and understood through poetry. These poets presented

concepts and ideas previously lacking in poetry of the time, like the imperfect notion

of love, the struggles of the poor and the working class, and the unfair treatment of


In the early 16th century, the poetic convention of English sonnets were

introduced by Thomas Wyatt and then refined by the Earl of Surrey into a structural

division of quatrains with a rhyming meter, but the orginal idea of a sonnet was

created by Petrarch. The sonnet convention “was often a celebration of the poet 's

‘wit,’ that is, of his ability to show his poetic skill in appropriating metaphors and

conceits,” and would often portray a “despairing lover writing to a lovely,

unattainable lady in words of reverent praise and worshipful adoration” (Ian

Johnston). Shakespeare, however, went against this trend. The disparity can be seen

in Sonnet 130. Shakespeare ...

... middle of paper ...

...tent and in doing so made it possible for later

poets to express themselves and in turn depict the realities and hardships of others.

A greater emphasis was placed upon the realistic emotions, labors and hardships

that the common, working class people endured as opposed to an emphasis on what

poets born to wealth and privilege experienced. It made possible the spread of

thoughts and ideas that otherwise would not have come to fruition. In essence, they

each paved the way to a dynamic shift in consciousness.


“Sonnet 130” by Shakespeare

“An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray

“An Epistle to Mr. Stephen Duck” by Mary Collier

Ian Johnston:
“English 366: Studies in Shakespeare: A Note on Shakespeare’s Sonnets”

Roger Lonsdale:
“The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse”

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