Poetry Slam Fridays: What thing is love?

Ah, who could ever truly describe what love is? Our good friend (who’s hosting this par-tay today) George Peele thought he could. Alas, in his drunken dribble he only achieved the truth that love is tangible, love is a thing.

Other than this, he never seemed to answer his own question: What thing is love?

Your host with the most: Author Bibliography

Hey there! Leave your coat with the maid on your way in. Its Peele’s attempt at poetry, can you believe it? A dramatist, a playwright, the guy rumored to have laid low so that Shakespeare could pretend he wrote Act 1 and 2 of Titus Andronicus, thinks he could write poetry to last through the ages. But hey, it is the 1500s, the Renaissance baby. Everyone must be a jack of all trades.

I think it suits him: a reckless man who squandered the wealth he received in a good marriage to think himself a philosopher of sorts. He married for money most probably, and never achieved the fame his Elizabethan era counterparts did. Do you remember him for anything? I know he wrote Hunting of Cupid and The Old Wife’s Tale, but really, he’d never make it to William’s party. (Spoiler: he dies poor.) But let’s humor him for today! After all, he sets the tone for all shindigs to come.

Take your time! Grab a Coke and settle down.

Decoration and décor: Tone, Mood, Purpose, Theme

What thing is love? is, like many poems written in the 16th and early 17th centuries, about love (here are some other common themes).

It is about the Ying-Yang relationship of love, so basically: it is good, but is bad.

Wow. Deep.

Honestly, I personally thought this poem was written by a teenager instead of an established dramatist. The use of a irregular couplet rhyme scheme aside, (AAABBCCDD) its imagery is bland. Who knows? Maybe in his time, he was the first man to compare fire to love, and the body parts of women to weapons.

The tone in this poem reminds me of a man who has recently been dumped by the girl of his dreams: It’s more bitter than sweet. It has an almost regular couplet rhyme scheme of AAABBCCDD, but the first line I think is there only to introduce the rest of the passage. It is an argument to be made to the guy your sitting next to you in the bar.


This poem completely avoids any complex vocabulary. Most of the words are one syllable long, and seem to emphasize every word that is said. A cool thing to notice: Lines 2, 5, 7, and 9 contain 8 syllables per line.

What comes to mind when you think of eight? Sadly, for me, I’m filled with pictures of Dr. Octopus, a Spiderman villain. Maybe it has more to do with a spider? A graceful, quiet, but skilled creature…a creature known for its intricate webs. In Ghana, Ananse the Spider is a trickster, and a spinner of lies. It makes sense. Love can be deep, filling in “at every hole”, but it also can be tricky like a “piercing dart”, much like a spider.


This poem, like all good poetry, is image laden. Every line describes something different: a fire (it is a fire), a lump of coal in a fireplace (it is a coal), a bee stings when frolicking about the meadows (It is a stick/pretty thing), Cupid’s rain of arrows (piercing darts) . In fact, I think What thing is love? ‘s  imagery that saves this poem from becoming pretentious.


Personally, I do not like the poem. I believe it simplifies love to much and drags it out of context. Is this supposed to be a universal poem? I can’t imagine this poem being an argument a divorced person would make. Hell, I can’t imagine this being a poem my classmates would make after breaking up! What Thing is love?

That word, THING is what gets me. How can love be tangible? Couldn’t it be better described as a spirit? A state of mind? An illusion of some sort?

Thanks for reading! Leave any and all comments and additional commentary in the mentioned section. See you next Friday!

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