1. What is the significance of the sequence's title? Why do you think the poet chose as her speaker an "unknown" rather than a known woman from the past?
  2. What is a "sonnet of sonnets"? What would have been the perceived value of this form? What is added by the use of Italian epigraphs?
  3. According to the preface, what does this sequence add to earlier sonnet sequences of love? What do you think Rossetti means by her claim that as represented by their lovers Laura and Beatrice are "scant of attractiveness"? What will she add to the portrait?
  4. Who was the "great poetess of our day," and why had the "Portuguese Sonnets" failed to create a female speaker worthy to stand beside Laura and Beatrice? What do you think of Rossetti's tone here?
  5. How would you compare this sequence with Dante Rossetti's "The House of Life"? What are some common themes? Some major differences?
  6. What are some ways in which the poet uses the Petrarchan form to convey her ideas throughout the sequence?
  7. What are some features of the sequence's language? Diction and tone? Imagery?
  8. In sonnet one, what is the speaker's attitude toward meeting her lover? Is this what one might expect?
  9. In sonnet two, why does the poet seek to remember their first meeting? For what does she blame herself, and why may this be so?
  10. In sonnet three, why does the speaker find the dream state preferable to the daytime one? How does she characterize herself on waking? What is the sonnet's final metaphor, and how does this affect its tone?
  11. In sonnet four, how do the lovers' respective forms of attachment differ, according to the speaker? Who seems more constant? Has their love survived? Is the sonnet's final affirmation convincing?
  12. In sonnet five, what does the poet wish for her loved one and for herself? How doe these two wishes differ, and what reason/ascription of roles accounts for this difference?
  13. In sonnet six, what implied rebuke has the lover given to the speaker? How does she characterize herself? What are some implications of the final claim, "I cannot love Him if I love not you."
  14. What might be expected from the fact that sonnet seven is the central sonnet in the sequence? Are these expectations borne out by the sonnet itself?
  15. In sonnet seven, what metaphors describe love? What contrast is emphasized in the difference between the situation described in the octave and sestet? What associations are evoked by the final biblical metaphor?
  16. In sonnet eight, why do you think the story of Esther was chosen to describe the speaker's situation? What significance do you make of the emphasis on Esther's attractiveness? Of the fact that Love is compared to the biblical King Ahasuerus?
  17. In sonnet nine, what seems to have happened to the lovers' relationship/ possibility of happiness? In the octave, how does the speaker respond to this loss? What comforts her in the sestet?
  18. In view of the fact that "all / That might have been . . . now can never be," what is the effect of the speaker's willingness "to spend and be spent for your sake"? Is this a reciprocal form of comfort?
  19. In sonnet ten, what has become of the prospect of happiness or fulfillment in this life? What mood or tone characterizes this sonnet? Does the sestet resolve the problems or tensions embodied in the octave?
  20. In sonnet eleven, who is given authority to declare the speaker's constancy of love? What has been their relationship?
  21. Under what circumstances is her lover charged to declare her truth? Why can she not declare her own love, and in this life? What is added to the sonnet by the speaker's sense of inhibition?
  22. In sonnet twelve, what does the speaker claim would be her reaction to her former lover's preference for another? How does the imagery reinforce its themes?
  23. Do the speaker's sentiments parallel those of the speaker of "The House of Life" under a similar loss of love?
  24. What ethic/assumptions underlie the speaker's view that "you cmpanioned I am not alone"? Is this convincing?
  25. In sonnet thirteen, under what circumstances does the speaker commend her lover to God? Is this an appropriate place in the sequence to do so? What does she think of her own capacity to help her lover?
  26. What forms of imagery pervade sonnet fourteen? How does the speaker characterize her life trajectory?
  27. What is the sequence's final, closing image? What is the sonnet's final tone? Does the speaker retain any final comfort? How do the sonnet's sounds and rhythms reinforce its meaning?