The Court and Sir Thomas Wyatt
During the 16th Century, English poetry was dominated and institutionalised by the Court. Because it 'excited an intensity that indicates a rare concentration of power and cultural dominance,' the Court was primarily responsible for the popularity of the poets who emerged from it. Sir Thomas Wyatt, one of a multitude of the so-called 'Court poets' of this time period, not only changed the way his society saw poetry through his adaptations of the Petrarchan Sonnet, but also obscurely attempted to recreate the culture norm through his influence. Though much of his poems are merely translations of Petrarch's, these, in addition to his other poetry, are satirical by at least a cultural approach.
Thomas Wyatt was born at Allington Castle in Kent, in 1503 and had made his first Court appearance by the age of thirteen as a Sewer Extraordinary to King Henry VIII. By 1525 he served the King in several various duties. Wyatt was rumoured to have been a lover of Anne Boleyn, wife to King Henry VIII, and possibly imprisoned for the affair. He witnessed her execution on May 19, 1536.
Another important thing to realise while studying Wyatt, in so far as poetry analysis is concerned, is the time period in which he wrote. Although the exact date for the beginning of the Renaissance is unknown, Wyatt was surely part of that movement. The term Renaissance denotes a transition between the medieval and modern world which individualised the sixteenth century and helped to enlarge the mind of man 'with a sense of old freedoms regained and of new regions to be explored.' Wyatt and one of his contemporaries, Henry Howard Earl of Surrey, pioneered a literary movement in which 'their task was, not to carry on the tradition of English verse, for that had been virtually lost, but to create a new one.' During an official trip to Italy in 1527, Wyatt became acquainted with the work of the Italian love poets. Later, his translations of Petrarch introduced the sonnet into England, which is what he is most commonly known for.
Wyatt's translations of Petrarch's poems, mainly idealisations of unobtainable women and considered to be biographical, were unusual in the Court at the time. Court poetry, because used only for special occasions and entertainment, allowed little or no room for a poet's personal emotions. Most of Wyatt's poetry 'is conventionally elegant, clear, impersonal, speaking with the voice of the collective, directed at his audience rather than to his own experiences.' Wyatt's unique translations reveal his own emotions in a limited, but accepted way. The sonnet, because of its small size and strict form, allows little room for vagueness and forces its writer to avoid obscurity; 'the sonnet itself is such a model space- a stanza, a small room, like those no doubt of study or closet in which it would be written or read.' Wyatt employed the sonnet as a corrective for vague thought and loose expression that...