The Chreia in the Forrest

  •  Robert Rois    


Interpretation of poetry becomes manageable when we find in the poets' background elements of early training which are revealed in their work. In the schools of the British Renaissance Aphothonius’ Progymnasmata was the preferred manual of classical rhetoric used to teach students how to write. The composition exercises in this manual of rhetoric were applied to the art of letter writing, since this was the most common means for communication at the time.

Among the various writing exercises from the Progymnasmata used in the grammar schools of the English Renaissance, the chreia predominates. We can see that the main thematic headings and subdivisions used in the epistolary lyric fit this particular format. John Donne introduced this innovation to English poetry. Ben Jonson perfected the technique, as we see in his book of poems, The Forrest. Several of his best known poems fit the chreia pattern. We close our study with a suggestion that To Heaven, one of the best known poems of the English Renaissance, can be interpreted as a letter addressed directly to God.

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  • ISSN(Print): 1918-7173
  • ISSN(Online): 1918-7181
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: quarterly

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