“An Owl in a Sack Troubles No Man”: Proverbs, Plainness, and Wyatt
Explores some of the connotations of proverbs and proverbial discourse in Sir Thomas Wyatt's third satire, “A Spending Hand,” addressed to Sir Francis Bryan. Proverbs were a fashionable form of discourse at court in the 1530's, associated with humanist eloquence and plain-speaking integrity. In Wyatt's poem, proverbs are shown to be malleable, open to interpretation, and capable of being used as “evidence” for any side. Whether used by an eloquent orator or a blunt speaker of truths, proverbs form an unstable rhetorical ground.