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Different Portrayal of Love in Shakespearean Sonnets Essay


William Shakespeare is one of the well-known English-speaking poets, whose contribution to the world literature cannot be underestimated (Potter vii). The poet was able to add novelty to the writing style while making it unique and exceptional due to the theatrical connections of the author (Potter vii). Meanwhile, Shakespeare paid particular attention to love as a critical subject of his poems, his impressionistic language and impression assisted in seeing love from dissimilar angles while presenting the variability of its nature.

Love and passion have always been matters of discussion, but Shakespeare was able to see its tragic and poetic side while adding contradiction to the positive emotional state of the individual’s mind (Bates 195). In this case, a sonnet is one of the forms of Shakespearean writing styles and sonnets 18 and 130 were selected for the analysis. It could be claimed that despite addressing different gender of lovers and tone, the chosen sonnets address the controversial feeling of love, portray the essence of nature’s beauty, are devoted to muses, and use the main concepts of Shakespearian language.

The sensation of love and attraction tends to be a principle component of Shakespearean sonnets, and these topics are reflected in the poems 18 and 130 respectively. In this case, the falsity of love is discussed in number 18, as the author uses a disturbing comparison to express his attitude towards his mistress such as “black wires grow on her hair” and “her breasts are dun” (Shakespeare 269). It could be said that this comparison helps express the emotions of the author and underlines the fact that love can be tragic and complex feeling.

The usage of this vocabulary of this poem assists in seeing the controversial and confusing nature of love, and it creates a perception that beauty is not the definer of attraction while being close to the reality is critical. In turn, in the context of poem 18, the author uses metaphors such as “lovely”, “temperate”, “gold”, and “darling buds of May” (Shakespeare 39).

In this case, the employment of these words underlines the closeness of the poet with the lover and his positive attitude towards the feeling of passion. Consequently, despite the controversial definition of love in the sonnets, they tend to reflect its principles due to the importance of this topic to the Shakespearean sonnets.

Meanwhile, another similarity between the selected sonnets is the interference of love with the magnificence of nature. For example, Shakespeare describes the appearance of the mistress by contrasting with the magnificence of nature such as “like the sun” and “roses damasked” in sonnet 130 (Shakespeare 269). Based on these words, the mistress appearance opposed to the beautiful nature and its reflections, and this literature tools are used to express his attitude towards his lover and her strong connection with reality. In turn, the sonnet 18 also depicts the correlation of love with nature by using the phrases such as “eternal summer”, “eye of heaven”, and “summer’s day” (Shakespeare 39).

In this case, the selected words add warmth and friendliness into the sonnet while emphasizing the fact the author care about the devoted person. It could be said that the sonnets tend to use the irresistible exquisiteness of nature to express the emotions and feelings towards the addressed person, and this approach adds clarity to the expression while creating a particular atmosphere to the reader.

In turn, both of the sonnets are devoted to Shakespearean lovers, and they are selected as the main characters of the poems. “Mistress” is the primary character in sonnet 130, as her outlook is described carefully by including the imageries of her “lips’ red” and “black wires grow on her head” (Shakespeare 269). In turn, the poem 18 is devoted to the male friend, as a chief devotee of the sonnet by using “summer day” to describe the feelings towards his muse (Shakespeare 39).

In this case, the author seeks opportunities and possibilities to remember his past and share his history with a broader audience in the future. Both of the persons were inspiring muses of the author, which helped him to release his potential in writing and expressing his emotions on the paper.

Furthermore, the structure of the sonnets and their ability to explain complicated topics of love and passion with the figurative language and rhymes could be regarded as a similarity between the sonnets. It remains apparent that similarities between the sonnets related to this case cannot be unnoticed, as they tend to use similar metaphors and relations to express the feelings and passion of the author. As it was mentioned earlier, the poetic nature of love is delivered to the readers by comparing the addressed characters with seasons and other natural phenomena. In turn, the rhyme is the definer of the tone in the sonnets, as it creates a particular speed by using different words and stress. These aspects contribute to the creation of a unique Shakespearean style and recognition of his sonnets by an extended public.

Nonetheless, despite the presence of the significant similarities between the Shakespearean poems 18 and 130, the sonnets have different tones, as the first one has an insulting nature in the beginning while another uses different phrases and structures to evoke the passion to his lover. For instance, the sonnet 130 could be discovered as romantic, serious, and insulting at the same time, and the poet reflects the false nature of love by referring to “I think my love as rare” (Shakespeare 269).

Nonetheless, the author underlines his magnetism to his mistress: “I think my love as rare, as any she belied with false compare”, and these phrases add the concluding mark to the poem while underlining the presence of attraction (Shakespeare 269). In turn, the sonnet 18 has a humorous tone, and starts the sonnet with the rhetorical question “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Shakespeare 39).

However, despite the presence of peculiar phrases, in the beginning, the sincerity and serious tend to dominate in the emotional expression eventually. Notwithstanding the unity of the covered topics, the sonnets use different figurative language instruments to deliver the right tone and the attitude of the author, and this aspect differentiates the poems from one another while making them reflect the love and passion from opposite angles.

The last difference is the fact that the selected sonnets are devoted to the lovers of different genders, and these findings explain the existence of differences in tone. As it was mentioned earlier, the primary muse and character of the first poem is a mistress, and the author underlines her belonging to the particular gender with the assistance of descriptions (Shakespeare 269). In turn, the primary goal of sonnet 18 is to address the cherished of the relationship with his friend by comparing him with one day in the summer (Shakespeare 39).

The usage of this aspect of the figurative language emphasizes that the author wants to remember the moments with his friend for eternity, and this memory has to be delivered through the centuries. In this case, different tones help distinguish the author’s attitude between male and female characters.

In the end, the unique perception and critical themes of love and nature are depicted in the sonnets while making them unique and complex despite the simplicity of the topics. Love as a theme has always been under the debate, but Shakespeare was able to reflect its nature from dissimilar angles while emphasizing its controversial mechanisms of simplicity and intricacy, and positivity and tragedy simultaneously. The selected sonnets highlight the standing out components of Shakespearean style while making them widely known pieces of literature from the old times. Both of the poems reflect the author’s attitude towards love, its connection to nature, and its spirituality while being devoted to the muses.

Nonetheless, despite the substantial similarities between sonnets in theme, the reference to nature, and devotion to lovers, the sonnets have differences in expressing their emotions and ideas by using different tones and figurative language, as they are addressed to Shakespearean lovers of different genders. These intricacies add peculiarities to the sonnets of the authors and make them unique pieces of literature since the author was able to portray how the feeling of love changes with the attitude of a person.

Works Cited

Bates, Catherine. “Shakespeare’s s tragedies of love. “ The Cambridge Campanian to Shakespearian Tragedy. Ed. Clare McEachern. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 195-250. Print.

Potter, Lois. The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2012. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. New York: Washington Square Press, 2004. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 16). Different Portrayal of Love in Shakespearean Sonnets. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/different-portrayal-of-love-in-shakespearean-sonnets/

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"Different Portrayal of Love in Shakespearean Sonnets." IvyPanda, 16 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/different-portrayal-of-love-in-shakespearean-sonnets/.

1. IvyPanda. "Different Portrayal of Love in Shakespearean Sonnets." September 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/different-portrayal-of-love-in-shakespearean-sonnets/.


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IvyPanda. "Different Portrayal of Love in Shakespearean Sonnets." September 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/different-portrayal-of-love-in-shakespearean-sonnets/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Different Portrayal of Love in Shakespearean Sonnets." September 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/different-portrayal-of-love-in-shakespearean-sonnets/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Different Portrayal of Love in Shakespearean Sonnets'. 16 September.

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