What Wyatt really did to Aretino's Sette Salmi

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This article interrogates the critical tradition which claims that Wyatt's Penitential Psalms speak with the authentic personal voice of early English Protestantism. The title references C. S. Lewis's famous essay, ‘What Chaucer Really Did to Il Filostrato', in which Chaucer is seen to ‘medievalize’ Boccaccio's ‘Renaissance’ poem, in order to question the assumption that Wyatt ‘Protestantizes' his primary Italian (Catholic) source, Pietro Aretino's I sette salmi de la penitentia di David (1534). This critical tradition, it is argued, is itself predicated upon the same periodization underpinning Lewis's essay, whereby the erroneous binary opposition Catholic/Protestant becomes metonymic of medieval/Renaissance. Applying this clear-cut confessional division to the late 1530s, when Wyatt wrote (or at the very least began) his sequence, is an anachronism. What this article argues, rather, is that Wyatt's reading and rewriting of Aretino's paraphrase and Antonio Brucioli's commentary on the Penitential Psalms — which also, I argue, influenced Aretino — helps him to reform certain of the equivocations and contradictions found in the Ten Articles (1536) and the Bishops' Book (1537) into a more consistent poetics of grace; notwithstanding his diverse other sources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-614
Number of pages20
JournalRenaissance Studies
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

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