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"A Lover's Complaint" is a narrative poem published as an appendix to the original edition of Shakespeare's sonnets. It is given the title "A Lover's Complaint" in the book, which was published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609. Although published as Shakespeare's work, the poem's authorship has become a matter of critical debate. The majority opinion is that it is by Shakespeare. 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. Despite its appearance in the published collection of the sonnets, 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 suggested that Shakespeare may have been trying to compete with Edmund Spenser. Critics have seen thematic parallels to situations in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure. According to John Kerrigan in Motives of Woe, the poem 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. Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson note that: It was not unusual for sonnets to be followed by longer poems. Late sixteenth-century readers developed a taste for them and would not have been surprised to find complaints at the end of sonnet collections. Samuel Daniel's Delia is followed by The Complaint of Rosamund (1592), Thomas Lodge's Phillis is followed by The Complaint of Elstred (1593), Richard Barnfield's Cassandra succeeds Cynthia, with Certain Sonnets (1595).
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