Shakespearian Love Sonnets.

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James Lee

Pre-20th Century Poetry

Shakespearian Love Sonnets

Whilst reading the play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, I encountered many beautiful images of love and many comparisons to objects to highlight a person’s beauty. In the play, when Romeo first sees Juliet, he is overwhelmed by her utter beauty. He says:

        “O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

        It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

        As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear-

        Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear:

        So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows.”

The first line conveys the message that Juliet really stands out from the other people at the party and is so “bright” and beautiful that she teaches torches to burn bright.

        The second comparison is to a “rich jewel” in an Ethiop’s ear. A contrast between light and dark is used here as the rich jewel is a bright shiny object used to represent Juliet, which would really stand out from the dark skin of an Ethiopian.

        The third comparison in the final line of what Romeo says compares Juliet to a “snowy white dove trooping with crows”. This is an effective comparison as doves are white birds and would really stand out if they flew alongside black crows.

        Later in the play, Juliet describes her love to be “boundless as the sea” and also says:

“This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,

May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.”

The first image of her love tells us that her love has no bounds and is as vast and great as the sea. The second comparison shows that her and Romeo’s love for each other is young and undeveloped, but could really blossom if they are patient and wait.

        After reading the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, I realised that many traditional images of love were used by Shakespeare. These traditional images of love were used throughout Elizabethan poetry. In search of more of these traditional images of love or love conventions, I decided to read three Love Sonnets written by William Shakespeare. The three Love Sonnets were: “Shall I compare thee…” (Sonnet 18), “So Are You to My Thoughts…” (Sonnet 75) and “My Mistress’ Eyes…” (Sonnet 130).

The main theme of the sonnet, “Shall I Compare Thee…” is a man talking about his admiration for a woman’s eternal beauty and how she is more beautiful than a summer’s day. The whole of the poem is written in first person as if it is a direct speaking voice. To begin the poem, Shakespeare uses a comparison: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Therefore, the remainder of the poem is like an answer to this first line. Following this, Shakespeare answers the question and decided that her beauty is even greater than that of a “summer’s day” because the latter has many imperfections. They are:

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

Join now!

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d.”

The first line explains that sometimes strong winds blow during summer, shaking the boughs of the trees. The second line tells us that summer does not last long enough and ends too early. The next line, explains that the Sun’s rays are sometimes too hot. Finally, Shakespeare states that the Sun is often blocked out by clouds.

         After this, it is explained in the poem that everything in nature will decline either by chance or ...

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