• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Analyse Shakespeares attitude to love

Free essay example:

Stacey Andrews

Write 600 words on Shakespeare’s attitude to love

Sonnet 18 presents an idealistic, romanticised view of love. The true essence of the poem serves to depict the poets’ love for the subject through an almost eternal/everlasting love, “but thy eternal summer shall not fade”, and even states, “as long as men can breathe…this gives life to thee”.

Focusing on the stability of love, the subject of the poem is presented to the reader as a somewhat, glorified, perfect human being in that firstly, he is compared to summer, “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and secondly, the subject is summer, “thy eternal summer shall not fade.”

Sonnet 130, on the other hand, presents a more realistic perception of love than the previous. Unusually, Shakespeare, goes against the usual traditional, romanticised, love poetry, to present the reader with a negative comparison that, pokes fun at the typical exaggerated love poetry.  “But no such roses see I in her cheeks.”

In conventional love poetry, we would expect the subject to be elevated and glorified, as in Sonnet 18; yet, this is not the case. The subject of the poem is compared in a negative manner as seen through the poets’ senses. He sees her eyes as “nothing like the sun”. He compares her smell to that of perfume “and in some perfumes is there more delight”, which shows that he is not overly excited by her. We would expect the ‘mistress’ to move as graceful as an angel, however here, Shakespeare suggests that the subject of the poem is ‘heavy footed’, as she “treads on the ground.”  Again, and throughout this sonnet, his ‘mistress’ is viewed in ‘realistic terms’ “I grant I never saw a goddess go”.

The indent, towards the end signifies a change in content, “And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare”. Here, Shakespeare, states that even though his mistress is all of these unflattering things, he still loves her for who she is. Rather than loving her for her physical appearance, he loves her for the true nature of her character. The first compliment, that we read can be seen nine lines into the sonnet, “I love to hear her speak” however, this is soon contradicted in the following line, when we read, “That music hath a far more pleasing sound.”

Sonnet 34, in comparison, presents us with another aspect of love. It focuses primarily on the emotions of the poet, after an argument with the subject  and explores the poets’ deep and profound pain, “For no man well of such a salve can speak, that heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace”. He is puzzled and disappointed by the youth who, after an argument has disillusioned the poet to feel remorse. “Ah but those tears are …ransom all ill deeds”.


Within the sonnet, Shakespeare uses religious imagery in order to present the moralistic viewpoint of ‘good versus bad’,
“…that thou repent”. Here, Shakespeare feels as though the subject has wronged him in some way and, provides us with further insight into the depths of his pain towards ‘the youth’. The idea of pain, is further explored with references to “salve”, “wound”  and “physic”. Evaporating his pain through his tears, “those tears are pearl which thy love sheds” suggests that at this point, he is able to forgive ‘ the youth’. In the final line of the rhyming couplet, Shakespeare again uses a religious metaphor to suggest that through his tears, he has liberated the youth of blame, “...are rich and ransom all ill deeds”.

 Again, sonnet 144, refers to love through the use of religious imagery. We hear of the poets’ involvement in a love triangle between a man and a woman, it is not clear whether this is a tangible or fabricated friendship “… both to each friend”.  This suggests the poets internal conflict, as he ‘hopes’ the male (the good) will conquer the woman (the bad), “Till my bad angel fire my good angel out.” The poets’ lovers are referred to in biblical terms,  in that the female is considered ‘evil’, “my female evil”, whilst Shakespeare refers to the man as  his “better angel” suggesting that the physical love of the feminine is inferior to the spiritual love of the masculine. Again there is a parallel between the bible and Adam and Eve. Woman here, is seen as the temptress of the forbidden fruit, whereas, the male is seen as naive and chaste.  

Finally, Sonnet 138 personifies the idea of ‘Greek love’ between men being pure and woman corrupt. This appears to be recurring theme throughout this selection of sonnets, and by doing so, represents the dissonance between the religious and social aspects of life in the 1600’s.

The sonnet centres round lies and deceit and these repeated references serve to question the true morality of woman. He refers to “truth”, “false speaking tongue” and “trust”, suggesting that the subject of the poem cannot be trusted. It suggests that the woman perceives the poet as a naive “untutored youth”, however, from the tone of the poem, the poet knows more than he is letting on. References to “both sides” suggest that he too, is complicit with her in doing so, is young and naïve, “ …say not I that I am old?”. The final rhyming couplet, summarises the tone of the sonnet with a pun, “I lie with her”, suggesting that not only does he ‘lie’ down to sleep with her, but also ‘lies’ with his words too.

All is not how it appears to be within this sonnet and the same can be said for the majority of this selection. The exception to this however, is sonnet 18, where a romanticised, idealistic, eternal view of love is presented. It is not clear, whether this is unrequited love. Religion features heavily in Shakespeare’s’ life and this is made clear through his references and symbolic imagery, throughout the sonnets. Whether these instances highlight Shakespeare’s sexuality, has given rise to debate, and certainly, from what we have seen here, it appears that he indeed did have bisexual tendencies. No where is this more apparent than in Sonnet 144.

.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sonnets section.

(?)
Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Related AS and A Level English Skills and Knowledge Essays

See our best essays

Related AS and A Level Sonnets essays

  1. William Shakespeare's sonnet 1 - analysis

    The speaker says that the subject is cruel to himself by not passing on his beauty and other traits. Like the first quatrain, the second one forms a complete sentence. Using complete sentences for each quatrain helps the poet to express fully his thoughts and move on to another subject.

  2. What is love? Compare and contrast Shakespeare's presentation of it's paradox in sonnets 116 ...

    and the object "thee" (147, 4) of love. A metaphor is used to portrait it like a doctor prescribing treatment. The sonnet is made coherent by the lexical set it contains which is related to illness.

  1. Sonnet 29. Shakespeares Sonnet 29 is a similar story about a man who thinks ...

    By chance, his thoughts turn to his beloved. David Thatcher said "His spirits soar like a lark, a bird known to fly straight up in the air as it sings its morning song." The speaker's comparison of his state to a lark's ascending flight stands out as the only figure

  2. Explore aspects of the sonnet tradition through reference to a range of material you ...

    Many of her sonnets were heavily influenced by her deep religious beliefs; her sonnet "Remember " follows this trend. This sonnet talks of how she wants to be remembered when she dies, she knew she was going to die so writing sonnets let people in the present and future know what sort of person she was.

  1. An examination of the sonnet from Petrarch to Browning.

    Shakespeare's sonnet contains a wide range of imagery and language, from hyperbolic language, to metaphorical language and similes. The first line of the sonnet contains a play on words; a pun on the word, 'made.' This word could also be depicted as a maid.

  2. Compare how love is portrayed in Sonnet 18,

    of the things mentioned in the first section, "wander'st in the shade", "fade". The word "Death" has a capital letter D at the beginning, the image of death seems to have been personalised into a human being which wanders. "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So

  1. Critical appreciation on Shakespeare's

    The sonnets are marked by the recurring themes of beauty; youthful beauty ravaged by time, and the ability of love and art to transcend time and even death. The word sonnet is derived from the Italian word "sonetto" which means a little song.

  2. Are there any ways in which you consider that experiences conveyed by the sonnets, ...

    relationship; Should learn to waken lust and yet stay chaste And should never say "I love you" first' In some ways the final line suggests that the women are just trying to protect her from a disappointment. 'But I would come to you clear-eyed and plain My treasures in a kerchief wrapped...'

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work