Shakespeare wrote 125 sonnets in his lifetime, they were written between 1594 and 1597. They were dedicated to a man whom he calls “fair boy” in his sonnets and a woman “my mistress”. Shakespeare’s sonnets were published in 1609. The sonnets are mostly full of images of a romantic nature about love and lust.
Sonnets come in two main forms: – “The Petrarchan” which originated in Italy and “Shakespearean” which is the English form. Most sonnets written by Shakespeare were in the Shakespearean form of three quatrains, each rhymed differently, with an independently rhyming couplet at the end. Each line is made up of ten syllables. In this essay it is necessary to look at sonnets 18 and 130, both written for different people, one for a man and one for a woman, and look and the differences between them.
Sonnet 18 follows the Shakespearean form. In this poem he shows his love for a man. This man’s identity is not known, but it is rumoured to be the Earl of Southampton, these are rumours so we don’t really know if that’s true.
Shakespeare’s first 26 sonnets are clearly written to a man. In one of his sonnets, sonnet 20, he describes his love for a man as non-sexual. But he clearly admires him very much. I think this because he doesn’t say “I love you” or anything that suggests that he loves him but phrases such as “nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st; Nor shall death brag thou wand’ rest in his shade” shows that he admires the man.
In sonnet 18 he compares the man with nature, “summers day” this suggests he might think that the man is very good-looking and so he’s comparing him to something beautiful.
In this sonnet it seems that Shakespeare likes this man a lot as he says that summer is not perfect unlike him and could never be as attractive as he is, “thou art more lovely and temperate”. Shakespeare also says that the man’s beauty is forever not like summer which “often is his gold complexion dimmed; and every fair from fair sometimes declines; by chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed” This suggests that Shakespeare thinks that the man’s good looks are forever and “shall not fade”. When he uses personification “Often is his gold complexion dimmed” it is effective because we know how beautiful summer is, unlike if he was comparing him to another person we wouldn’t know who that was and couldn’t comment on that quote.
Shakespeare uses a lot of images of beauty in this sonnet to compare the man’s beauty. He uses phrases such as: “Eye of heaven” which suggests that the man is warm and friendly unlike summer which can get too hot sometimes, “gold complexion” which compares the mans complexion as golden and tanned, “Buds” which suggests that the man is as beautiful as roses, he also uses “Lovely” and “Fair” to describe the mans personality.
He also compares the man to being the opposite of summer as summer has “rough winds” but he is the opposite “temperate”.
In this sonnet Shakespeare uses a lot of different types of imagery, such as beauty, another one he uses is death imagery. In this sonnet he uses words such as “declines” as he talks about summer and he uses “too short” when he talks about how summer isn’t long and dies out quickly but the man’s beauty will never die and last forever. Also Shakespeare uses the word “death” itself when describing that even if the man dies his beauty will live on forever. He says that “his gold complexion dimmed” when he says this he is talking about the “eye of heaven” he says that sometimes summer is dull but the man is never dull.
In sonnet 18 he also compares the man to summer using eternal imagery. He says that his beauty “shall not fade” and is “eternal” which suggests even when the man is dead he still will be beautiful? Also he finishes the sonnet with a rhyming couplet that reads “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and gives life to thee.” This suggests that the man’s beauty is forever and because poem lines are written down forever, this gives him life and makes him eternally beautiful.
Sonnet 130 is similar in structure to sonnet 18. Although in sonnet 130 the perspective is opposite to that of sonnet 18 because in 18 the subject is more beautiful than summer, but in 130 Shakespeare takes a different stance, he compares his “mistress” not being as beautiful as summer and says that it would be a false comparison to compare her to nature’s beautiful creations.
He uses many images of beauty but says that they are much better than her. He uses the sun and writes that her “eyes are nothing like the sun” He says that coral is more red than her lips and compares her to snow. Shakespeare also says that her cheeks are not red like roses. He also compares her to perfume, music and a goddess. When he uses these images of beauty, he doesn’t use them to compare her in a good way but in a way we might think of as offending.
“If snow be white, why her breasts are dun” this ‘comment’ makes us think he thinks more of the man in sonnet 18 than the woman in this one. Also he compares her hair to being black wires; this could seem very offence to a person when reading this. He also mentions that her breath “reeks” and is not as nice as perfume. “I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks”. This way of describing beauty is effective because Shakespeare isn’t calling the mistress ugly as such, because he’s just saying that she isn’t as beautiful as a lot of things that are nature but she is still beautiful to him.
In this sonnet the woman here cannot compare to elevated images of natural beauty, but words such as “my loves as rare” suggests how deeply the poet feels, and doesn’t seem so mean or offensive toward the subject. Also it’s not realistic to compare people to nature’s beauty. However it does it successfully in the other one.
The two sonnets are fairly similar because of their structure is the same and based on the Shakespearean form. They are both also love poems and both use a lot of beauty imagery. This helps create images in out minds of what Shakespeare feels for this man and woman whom these poems were written for. They are different though because one is written for a man and one for a woman, and also they way he uses words and imagery is different in each one.
In sonnet 18 he uses imagery to impress and say good things about the man, yet in sonnet 130 he uses imagery to say that his “mistress” is not as beautiful compared to nature and really if you think about it, it doesn’t seem fair on the subject in 130. Even though sonnet 130 seems harsh to the reader to start with, at the end where he wrote “And yet, by heaven, I think my love is rare, As any she believed with false compare” shows that he cares deeply for her as much as he seems to for the man in sonnet 18. So there actually isn’t much difference in the two poems as I first thought because they both are about how much he cares for two certain people even though it doesn’t at first seem like that in sonnet 130.