“An Evil Spirit” is not only a sonnet or a poem but it is a sharp reflection of his true feelings, love, despair and moreover his loyalty to his platonic love. Anne’s beauty haunts him and tortures him althrough his life, he never marries and always lives with such desperate love. In that sonnet, reader meets with an extraordinary phase of love in which he experiences an extreme pain. Moreover, beauty of Anne is described as “an evil spirit” that Drayton wants to deprive of but he can’t. “An Evil Spirit” can be analyzed in several different kinds of categories; theme, tone, mood, atmosphere, form and structure, poetic devices, lexical choice, grammar and meaning.
First of all, the poem can be analyzed in terms of the meaning that the poet wants to convey to the reader. In general sense the speaker mentions the love-pain that he undergoes because of his boss’ daughter Anne. Beauty is a burden for him which haunts him and the reader. That beauty is seen like “an evil spirit” as it takes his all time and he is possessed by that beauty. Love is like a prison and Drayton is a prisoner inside that prison. He becomes so exhausted that he wants “only a minute rest” from the painful and destructive beauty of her. Moreover there is continuity in torture, it doesn’t matter whether he is sleeping or wake, love tortures him.
The more he tries to abandon those feelings of love and the pain, the more the torture increases. In the third quatrain, his despair increases and he emphasizes that the sorrow on his face is only a reflection of sorrow and torture that he undergoes in his heart and mind. The pain is so great that he prefers “a sudden death” or “drowning” in his own tears to that love. “And then in sighing to give up my breath” he says. He emphasizes that his love is tempting him to death and death will be a consequence of his own tears and sighs. Contrary to the first three quatrains of the sonnet in the last part, he accepts his love with all the pains that he has to undergo.
“Thus I still provoked to every evil/By this good wicked spirit, sweet angel-devil”. In these last two lines he indulges to his love and power of beauty. Though he hates being tortured by the beauty of Anne which transforms into an evil spirit inside him, he still loves her. Love tortures him and also it warms up heart. Contrary to the pessimistic mood of the first three quatrains, that couplet reflects some optimistic and pessimistic feelings at the same time. “good wicked spirit” and “sweet angel- devil” are the phrases used for emphasizing both positive and negative sides of love and beauty. In general sense love and beauty have positive connotations however for Drayton they symbolize torture and pain.
Secondly, “An Evil Spirit” is a popular sonnet of Michael Drayton about the power of beauty. Beauty is so powerful that it haunts Drayton and the reader at the same time. It drives him to despair; it tempts him to drown himself in his own tears. Moreover it hastes him to a sudden death. The theme of that sonnet is power of beauty and the torture experienced by a loyal platonic lover because of that beauty. Love and beauty is so powerful that they torture him in most extremity. “And tortures me in most extremity” he says. Though the speaker loves the woman a lot, he cannot receive any response from her and inaccessibility of her beauty tortures him.
Aim of Drayton is to abandon that love and pain -and yet he can’t- while the purpose of the poem is to express grief and sorrow experienced by him and to arouse emotion which is called “love”. Though that sonnet was written five centuries ago, it preserves its validity by making the reader understand the evil side of love. Writing in an informal manner, Drayton aims to invite the reader into sharing his love, pain and sorrow. His using the exclamation “alas” is an obvious evidence of his informal relationship between him and the reader. In addition to this, the poem has a melancholic, dramatic tone.
Drayton creates that melancholy through his sharp delineations of love and beauty. “An evil spirit your beauty haunts me still”. He sees beauty as an evil spirit and moreover the word “evil” makes the tone much more pessimistic because of its denotation. Melancholic tone of the poem creates a depressive mood and a gloomy atmosphere. There are several vital words that create a depressive mood. For instance, “haunts”, “ill”, “greater torments”, “tortures”, “despairs”, “a sudden death”, “to drown myself in tears”, “give up my breath”, “provoked to every evil”, “wicked” and “devil” are such words that influence readers by creating a depressive mood and a gloomy atmosphere.
Thirdly, when the poem “An Evil Spirit” is analyzed in terms of form and structure, it can be obviously identified that its structure is “sonnet”. “An Evil Spirit” is an English sonnet which is very popular in terms of structure as it has been used for centuries. In that structure the poem is divided into three quatrains (of four lines) and a couplet (of two lines). “An Evil Spirit” is a sonnet of fourteen lines and the rhyme scheme is “a-b-a-b/c-d-c-d/e-f-e-f/g-g”.
The rhymes of the poem are “…still-…ill, …possessed- …rest/ …wake-…take, …try- …extremity/… despairs-…tears, …death-…breath/…evil-….devil”. All those rhymes give a rhythm to the poem and that rhythm emphasizes a great sorrow and pain of the omniscient speaker. Another important point is that there are some words with emphatic stress beside the syllable stress. For instance, the word “evil” has an emphatic stress as it is an essential word in the emphasis of the context. He is deeply in love with a woman and his love, her beauty become a spirit in him; it becomes a part of him. However that part of his spirit is “evil” as that love and beauty hurt him. For this reason the word “evil” must be emphasized. Punctuation in the poem is another vital aspect that influences the rhythm of the poem.