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Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, Coursework Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1079

Coursework

Can you identify in any way with the speaker of Sonnet 29?

It is not difficult to identify with the speaker in Shakespeare’s sonnet 29, and because the content goes to feelings of self-pity most of us experience at times.  The narrator is in fact commenting on how such feelings overtake him, how he undergoes great pain when he thinks about his life, and how this compels him to: “trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries” (L 3). Many people experience this pain and view their lives as unhappy.  They consciously envy all those they see around them as content and successful, just as the speaker here does: “Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,/ Featured like him, like him with friends possessed” (ll 5-6).  What Shakespeare is doing is presenting the common and emotional state wherein a dark mood overtakes a person and nothing seems right.

What do you think are the speaker’s strongest feelings in Sonnet 29

The poet then suddenly recognizes that the knowledge of being loved by someone wonderful is the most important thing in his life.  This change of mood and voice is the strongest feeling expressed, and stronger than the self-pity first described.  The speaker’s entire perspective is reversed.  With the thought comes a powerful confidence and the firm belief that there is no reason at all to envy anyone: “For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings/ That then I scorn to change my state with kings” (ll 13-14).  Within one sonnet, then, Shakespeare reveals the strength of love.

What is your response to the description of love in Sonnet 116?

With sonnet 116, the description of love is what may be called pragmatic. Here, Shakespeare does not describe it in typically poetic language.  Instead, he focuses on the sheer power of love as too strong to be weakened by changes of age or appearance: “Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds” (ll 2-3).  On a personal level, I find this approach to be extremely important and persuasive.  It is a kind of lesson to the world, and one supporting the need for people to understand the true quality of real love, as opposed to mistaking attraction or infatuation for the emotion.  Then, the poet’s confidence in the truth of this carries greater impact:  “If this be error and upon me proved,/ I never writ, nor no man ever loved” (ll 13-14). Simply, there is no room to question this definition of love as beyond trivial concerns.

In Sonnet 116, do you think the speaker’s concept of love is realistic? Why or why not?

There is reason to question the realism of the sonnet, and in terms of how people generally perceive love.  Shakespeare is inflexible in his conviction as to real love’s lack of concern with changes that come with age or the loss of beauty: “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,/ But bears it out even to the edge of doom” (ll 11-12).  Unfortunately, and especially in today’s world with its emphasis on entitlement and the “right” of people to be happy in love all the time, the viewpoint of the poem may be lost to many.  Realism suffers because so many people tend to equate love with, or mistake it for, powerful attraction.

What was your reaction to the description used by Shakespeare in Sonnet 130?

It may be argued that no love “tribute” is more harsh in its description of the love object.  Her eyes are not brilliant, her lips are not beautifully red, and “black wires” grow where other women have hair on their heads.  Then: “I have seen roses damasked, red and white,/ But no such roses see I in her cheeks” (ll 5-6).  My reaction to this description is then dual.  On one level, I have the strong sense that the speaker’s love is in fact a black woman, which is strange for the era and culture.  On another, however, I have the feeling that this critical review of the woman must end with an expression of how the speaker’s love is unconcerned with these realities. Shakespeare does not disappoint me: “And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,/ As any she belied with false compare” (ll 13-14).  It is unimportant that this mistress is no glorious goddess; what matters is that the depth of the poet’s love completely ignores the lack of classic beauty.

Which sonnet contains the most sensory language? How does this language suit the subject?

This sonnet also offers the most sensory language of the three discussed here.  As noted, the speaker goes into detail regarding the physicality of his mistress, and through contrasting her features with the standards of beauty in place.  The poet loves to hear her voice, even though it is far from musical.  Even her breath is unpleasant or less than attractive: “And in some perfumes is there more delight/ Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks” (ll 7-8).  The sonnet is in fact largely a list of sensory realities, none of which go to normal physical appeal, and this suits the subject through reinforcing the strength of the speaker’s love.

Renaissance sonnets often focus on the great beauty of the beloved. How important is physical beauty or attractiveness in today’s society? Cite specific example or experiences to support your answer.

So many centuries after Shakespeare beautifully defined the true nature of love, it seems that physical beauty still greatly dictates how people “fall in love.”  There is nothing strange or inherently wrong in men and women being most drawn to physical beauty. At the same time, and in today’s “enlightened” age, beauty still is given too much import.  For example, modern media and advertising continue to present idealized male and female models, despite the public’s awareness that such beauty is not ordinary.  Many actors and celebrities desperately try to defy age and maintain their beauty as youthful, through plastic surgery. It is arguable that many people today are very concerned with character, and understand that physical beauty is not any valid reason to develop feelings of love.  The nature of humanity, however, is that physical attraction consistently goes to emotional response.  In a sense, we want to be in love with someone who is beautiful, which may reflect cultural or social motivations to generate admiration from others when the beauty of the loved one is evident.  This is, again, understandable.  Unfortunately, however, it limits possibilities of real love, and real love as defined by Shakespeare.

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