'Monna Innominata' presents an expressive and psychologically powerful account of failed love. Rossetti's style is highly personal and entirely honest, presented in a logical structure; each of the stanzas could be read as a separate poem, as though she has weaved disparate ponderings into a cohesive whole. The poem is structured as though it in itself were a logical thought process. There is a psychological openness about Rossetti's style; she leads us sequentially through the experience of lost love, from the very moment of its inception, through its dissolution, and into the future.

Each of the fourteen sonnets is preceded by a short excerpt from the writings of Dante and Petrarch, both of whom immortalized their beloveds in their writing. Rossetti writes that these women have been presented as 'resplendent with charms, but scant of attractiveness'. She perhaps refers to these two male poets in order to provide contrast with her own female perspective; or it could simply be to make a connection with two poets whom she admired.


1. This poem is highly personal and autobiographical, but are there any ways in which Rossetti uses poetic conventions popular at the time in either her language or style?

2. Rossetti conveys with honesty her devotion to and obsession with her lover. She writes

For one man is my world of all the men
This wide world holds; O love, my world is you.

She also writes 'With separate "I" and "thou" free love has done/ For one is both and both are one in love'. Is her overriding view of love in this poet one of equality? Does she at any point reference the popular poetic notion of unrequited love?

3. How does Rossetti's use of rhetorical questioning in this poem contribute to its overall interpretation?

4. The notion of reconciling spiritual and earthly love is prominent in this poem; does the theme appear elsewhere is her work?

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Last modified 17 October 2006