FROM THE SONNETS YOU HAVE STUDIED, COMPARE AND COMMENT UPON THREE POEMS. EXPLAIN WHY YOU THINK THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL. SHOW WHICH YOU PREFERED AND WHY.
Before I compare these sonnets I must understand exactly what a sonnet is. A sonnet is a type of poem, which poets often use to express their feelings. The themes of most sonnets are subjects such as war and death or love and happiness. Sonnets are useful because the poet can tell the reader what they want to say in just fourteen short lines.
The person who wrote the first sonnet is unknown but the form of the sonnet originated in Italy in the thirteenth century, a long time before Shakespeare was born. The sonnet first reached England in the sixteenth century courtesy of Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey.
Sonnets are a form of poem, which are different from all others. They always consist of fourteen lines, and each line has ten syllables.
Each line also has a regular pattern where the first syllable is unstressed and is then followed by a stressed syllable. Once this is repeated five times in each line it is known as an iambic pentameter.
The most famous form of sonnet is the Shakespearean sonnet and is known as this because it is the pattern that Shakespeare used for many of his sonnets. The sonnets that I have chosen are all Shakespearean and written by Shakespeare.
I am going to compare three sonnets that are all by Shakespeare, which are ‘Shall I compare thee…?’, ‘Let me not’ and ‘Act I Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet’. I have selected these poems because I believe that they will make an interesting comparison, as they are all love sonnets with different purposes.
Each poem has love as he main theme but they are written with a different purpose or reason. “Shall I compare thee…?” is written by Shakespeare to the person who he loved although we do not know who this person is. Shakespeare’s aim of the sonnet was to teach people the power of words. You can tell this in the rhyming couplet at the end of he sonnet:
“So long as men can breath or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and gives life to thee.”
What Shakespeare means by this is that as long as mankind exists this sonnet will exist and therefore Shakespeare’s love will still exist. He is showing us how words can defeat time.
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“Let me not”, however has a different purpose. Instead of Shakespeare talking about his love, he chooses to teach people that ‘true love’ is the only love that will last. Again Shakespeare gets to the point of the sonnet at the beginning as the first quatrain talks about how love is not true love if there are any doubts:
“Admit impediments, love is not love
Which alters when it alteration findes.”
In these lines with the use of enjambment Shakespeare tells us how people who admit their impediments to each other should be married but how love is not ‘true love’ if when the loved person changes your feelings towards them change.
The third sonnet I have selected again has a different purpose, which is because it is a sonnet embedded within Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare uses this sonnet, where both Romeo and Juliet take part in the dialogue, to show how Romeo and Juliet feel about each other and how they are meant to be together.
All of the sonnets are aimed at a different audience. “Shall I compare the…?” is aimed at Shakespeare’s loved one but is also aimed at anyone who chooses to read it. We can tell this by reading the first line as Shakespeare asks if he should “compare thee to a summers day?” This shows that he is talking to his loved one as summer is thought by most as a time when people are happy and enjoy themselves therefore; there is nothing better to compare her to than a summer’s day. He has also aimed this at other people as well. He has done this to teach people just how powerful writing can be. Because he has written this poem, people use it today to say to their loved ones, which shows that the poem really has defeated time.
“Let me not” is aimed is aimed at anyone who wants to read it but I think that it is particularly aimed at anyone who is not sure if they are in love or not. I believe this because Shakespeare uses this sonnet to teach people that love is not always ‘true love’. This poem could be beneficial to people who are not sure if they are in true love.
The sonnet embedded in “Romeo and Juliet” is aimed a more general audience, which is anyone who is watching the play. It is aimed at this audience because Shakespeare uses the sonnet to show how Romeo feels about Juliet.
The three sonnets all follow the same pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet. They are all split up into three quatrains and then finally a couplet. The three quatrains all have alternate rhyming in them; this is the same in all of Shakespearean sonnets. The couplet at the end also rhymes and is therefore a rhyming couplet. The three quatrains usually talk about the specific subject and them conclude at the end in the couplet. In the sonnets I have selected this structure is important. “Shall I compare thee…?” and “Let me not” follow a slightly different use of the Shakespearean sonnet structure than the sonnet in “Romeo and Juliet”. “Shall I compare thee…?” uses the first two quatrains to talk about how summer is not always as good as it is thought to be. The third quatrain is then used as a change of mood when Shakespeare uses the word ‘but’:
“But thy eternal summer shall not fade.”
Shakespeare uses this as a total change of mood and feeling, this is the pivotal point. First, he is talking about all of the things that people do not like about summer and is being very pessimistic. The he uses the power of just one word to change the whole mood of the poem as he looks at the good side of he person that he loves. He then concludes by in the final couplet.
This structure is also taken by “Let me not”. In the first two quatrains Shakespeare talks about what love is by personifying love. He talks about the differences between love and true love and how just normal love will not last. The sonnet then begins to talk about true love as opposed to normal love for a person:
“Lov’s not Times foole, though rosie lips and cheeks.”
This is the line where Shakespeare begins to talk about true love. Shakespeare uses personification of love and time here effectively. He says that love is not times fool meaning that true love will not fall victim to time and that love “beares it out till the edge of doome” as the quatrain finishes. Time is being used because of old Father time. We can tell this because in the next line Shakespeare talks about a sickle:
“Within his bending sickles compasse come,”
Shakespeare refers to ‘his sickle’ where ‘he’ is Father Time. He is saying that if time’s sickle cuts you down then it is not true love. Shakespeare the concludes with a very clever couplet at the end just as he does in “Shall I compare thee…?”:
“If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
This is a very good ending couplet because it convinces the reader of the sonnet that what Shakespeare is saying is true. This couplet means that if Shakespeare is wrong and that true love can be true love even when their are doubts then he never wrote and that no man has ever loved. Shakespeare has written and of course, men have loved so Shakespeare must be correct.
As you can see Shakespeare uses the structure of the sonnet effectively in this way for “Shall I compare thee…?” and “Let me Not” but on the other and the sonnet in “Romeo and Juliet” is slightly different.
This sonnet has the same structure but uses it in a different way. This is because it is dialogue where Romeo and Juliet are talking to each other. Instead of the mood or subject changing, or the poem progressing after the second quatrain, it changes every time the next person speaks. At the beginning of the sonnet Romeo talks to Juliet about how he wants to kiss her and touch her with his hands but how he is not worthy:
“My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”
Romeo’s says that his lips are two blushing pilgrims. Shakespeare uses this metaphor because the ‘rough touch’ is referring to Romeo’s palm and pilgrims traditionally took a palm leaf with them when thy went on a pilgrimage. The second quatrain is when Juliet begins to speak. Juliet picks up Romeo’s idea of being pilgrims by replying ‘Good pilgrim.’ Juliet then talks about how Romeo is worthy of touching her and that he is being wrong to himself:
“Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much.”
Shakespeare then lets them both share the final quatrain and the rhyming couplet. In the final quatrain, they both agree that they should kiss. This is different to the way Shakespeare has written “Shall I compare thee…?” and “Let me not” but it is still effective.
The choice of vocabulary in these sonnets is very important because Shakespeare has to tell the reader his feelings in just fourteen lines. Shakespeare does not let a word go to waste because he only has a limited amount of words. The three sonnets all use different styles of writing with different vocabulary and different types of words to achieve the effect that Shakespeare creates.
“Let me not" uses personification by personifying love and time. This can clearly be seen at the beginning of the third quatrain:
“Lov’s not Times fool,”
The use of personification makes the reader think that love and time have the same properties as humans. This works well in this sonnet because it makes it easier for the reader to understand the point that Shakespeare is trying to tell us by personification. “Shall I compare thee…?” also uses personification effectively:
“And often is his gold complexion dimmed;”
In this case, the sun has been personified. Shakespeare is looking at the negative side of summer and in his line, he is saying that it is often the case that clouds will cover up the sun. The sonnet in Romeo and Juliet does not use personification but does use other methods. In this sonnet there are many metaphors:
“My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand”
Romeo uses the idea of his lips being pilgrims because he wants to touch Juliet with his hands and he says how pilgrim’s hands are used for important cases just like lips are used for kissing.
When Shakespeare says “This holy shrine”, this is also a metaphor. Romeo is saying that Juliet is a holy shrine but the type of shrine that he really means is one of he shrines that a pilgrim would have to touch on their pilgrimage. Metaphors are used effectively in this so that Shakespeare can compare things to things that they could not realistically be.
Although “Shall I compare thee…?” and “Let me not” do not use metaphors but they do however use other types of words to gain a different effect. “Shall I compare thee…?” is very appealing to the senses. It uses vocabulary that easily creates an image in the reader’s mind:
“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May”
“Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines”
Although Shakespeare is being pessimistic towards summer, these lines still create images very easily. The “eye of heaven” is the sun, which manages to create images in my head with just the use of a few words. This is a classic example of how much can really be put into just fourteen lines without you even knowing it.