A comparative morphology of three Golden Age morality sonnetists: Lope, Quevedo, and Gongora

Barbara Brunner Edwards, University of Pennsylvania


In morality sonnets, the author intends to convince the reader of the benefits of penalties of specific behavior. Among the several moral codes followed in the establishment of theme, the overwhelming number of the poets' 239 morality sonnets condemn the vices of pride, envy, and avarice, or seek a virtuous state of "desengano". In order for a morality sonnet to complete its didactic mission, implicit or explicit communication must exist between a poetic "yo" and "tu", and time, space, and tone must correspond to the reader's personal circumstances or experiences. Although all three poets often present themselves as repentant ethical models, Lope and Quevedo appear to gain moral strength as they mature as poets, abandoning self-effacing tones for stern recriminations of others' weaknesses, while Gongora becomes increasingly repentant in his later works. All three poets address the structure of the morality sonnet conservatively, engaging in no architectural experimentation, and adhering to accepted standards of versification and rhythm. Correlation, bi-membration, hiatus, and sirrematic enjambment are employed at stylistically strategic moments. Gongora's preference for three tercet rhymes contrasts with the other two poets' dedication to an almost invariable double rhyme pattern. Textual distribution patterns tend towards dual isodistribution, although Quevedo appears more willing to employ multiple isodistribution. Lope's distribution is distinguished by a tendency to include dialogue and tri-part semantic distributional patterns which approximate theatrical act divisions. Lope's sustantives, adjectives, and verbs appear to be generally lacking in concrete, visual, or plastic references, tending rather towards heightened implied ethical and emotional content. Lope's style in the morality sonnets is most clearly defined by the preference of metonymy and synecdoche over metaphor; frequent corporal metonymies reflect the poet's view of man as fragmented and conflictive. Gongora's morality sonnets are replete with specific proper nouns and vivid qualifiers whose enhanced plasticity corresponds to their overall reduced individual moral content. Metaphor and related tropes overwhelmingly dominate these works. Quevedo fills his morality sonnets with specific, quotidian language, although these lexemes almost always contain references to ethical concerns. The most common tropes in Quevedo's morality sonnets are synecdoche, polysemia, and syllepsis.

Subject Area

Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Brunner Edwards, Barbara, "A comparative morphology of three Golden Age morality sonnetists: Lope, Quevedo, and Gongora" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026546.