A Lover's Complaint


A Lover's Complaint

"A Lover's Complaint" is a narrative poem usually attributed to William Shakespeare, although the poem's authorship is a matter of critical debate.

Form and Content

The poem consists of forty-seven seven-line stanzas written in the rhyme royal (with the rhyme scheme "ababbcc"), a metre and structure identical to that of Shakespeare's poem "The Rape of Lucrece".

In the poem, the speaker sees a young woman weeping at the edge of a river, into which she throws torn-up letters, rings, and other tokens of love. An old man asks the reason for her sorrow, and she responds by telling him of a former lover who pursued, seduced, and finally abandoned her. She concludes her story by conceding that she would fall for the young man's false charms again:

:O that infected moisture of his eye,:O that false fire which in his cheek so glow'd,:O that forc'd thunder from his heart did fly,:O that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow'd,:O all that borrowed motion seemingly ow'd,::Would yet again betray the fore-betray'd,::And new pervert a reconciled maid!

History and Authorship

The poem, as 'A Louers complaint', was originally appended to the first complete edition of "Shakespeare's Sonnets", which was published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609. However, critics have often doubted attribution to Shakespeare. "A Lover's Complaint" contains many words and forms not found elsewhere in Shakespeare, including several archaisms and Latinisms, and is sometimes regarded as rhythmically and structurally awkward. Conversely, other critics have a high regard for the poem's quality—Edmond Malone called it 'beautiful'—and see thematic parallels to situations in Shakespeare's "All's Well That Ends Well" and "Measure for Measure". The poem can, along the lines of John Kerrigan in "Motives of Woe", be regarded as an appropriate coda to the sonnets, with its narrative triangle of young woman, elderly man, and seductive suitor paralleling a similar triangle in the sonnets themselves. John Mackinnon Robertson published a study in 1917 claiming that George Chapman wrote the poem, as well as originating "Timon of Athens". But in a 2007 monograph, "Shakespeare, "A Lover's Complaint," and John Davies of Hereford", literary scholar Brian Vickers attributes the "Complaint" to Davies. This attribution goes against a scholarly consensus which established itself during the 20th century, and in particular notable studies by Kenneth Muir, Eliot Slater and MacDonald P. Jackson, but is based on both a detailed demonstration of the non-Shakespearean nature of the poem and a list of numerous verbal parallels—such as 'What brest so cold that is not warmed heare' and 'What heart's so cold that is not set on fire'—between the "Complaint" and the known works of Davies. On this evidence it was omitted from the 2007 RSC "Complete Works", a decision which MacD. P. Jackson calls a 'mistake' in his "RES" review of Vickers's book, arguing, among other reservations, that 'Evidence that, in poems undoubtedly his, Davies exhibits an intimacy with Shakespeare's works equal to that of the author of "A Lover's Complaint" is very meagre.' He rejoins also:

Harold Love, in his "TLS" review, has similar questions:

External links

*gutenberg|no=1137|name=A Lover's Complaint
* [http://www.shakespeare-w.com/english/shakespeare/w_lovers.html A Lover's Complaint (1609)] Full text.


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