The Presentation of Women in Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 and Griffin's Sonnet 39

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The Presentation of Women in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 and Griffin’s Sonnet 39

What attitude do their presentations of women reflect?  Discuss in detail how the poets’ choice & use of language influences your reading of poems.

        It is evident in both Griffin’s poem and Shakespeare’s poem that their love for their beloved is matchless; however the presentations and the personal interpretations of the two poets give a totally different message to its readers.  It is often in Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 that we realize he ridicules his mistress and praises her in a way that misleads its readers to believe that Shakespeare doesn’t love her.  Whereas, in Griffin’s Sonnet 39, he puts his lady as the central motive of the poem and this is obvious as almost every line in his poem begins with the word “her.”  Without a doubt, the first line in both poems portrays a direct contrast from each other.  In Griffin’s poem, he compares his lady’s hair to “threads of beaten golds” (line 1), which suggests the high status and attractiveness of his lady.  On the contrary, Shakespeare begins his sonnet by depreciating the status of his mistress as she is “nothing like the sun” (line 1).  This is also seen in the latter lines of the sonnet; her lips are not as red as coral, her breasts are dun-colored and the black wires growing on her head. (lines 2-4).  In Griffin’s sonnet, we can see how he praises the beauty of his lady and her perfection with the use of figurative languages.  Although the two sonnets seems to be similar, both admiring the beauty of their lovers, it is still apparent that the two women in the two sonnets are presented in different ways and the fact that there is a contrast between the two of them.  

        The poem, Sonnet 130, itself is infact very satiristical; Shakespeare achieved this by through his cliché comparisons.  He makes use of many metaphors; however, none of them are in favor to his lover.  Along the lines of the poems, the poet creates questions regarding the features of the mistress.  For example, he says “if snow be white, why then her breasts are dun,” (line 3) he asks himself if snow is white, then how come his mistress has a brown complexion.  He is honest in answering every question he asks himself, for example, “if hairs be wires” then therefore it cannot be gold and he have seen roses “damask’d” but never seen roses blooming from his mistress’s cheeks.  Shakespeare is very strong and definite when speaking and stating the truths of his mistress.  It is also because of his decisive characteristic that makes the mistress real in nature.  Shakespeare deliberately makes use of these metaphors to tell its readers that his mistress is very typical and before he switches subject and begins the sestet part of the poem, he emphasized that even perfumes has a sweeter aroma compared to her breath (line 8).  In line three of the sonnet, readers see the words “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.”  Many of us may be misinterpret the word “wire” (in line 4) as modern industrial wires that exist today.  However, this is Shakespeare’s unique way of presenting his mistress to us.  In the Renaissance period, the word “wire” isn’t the wires we know today; whereas it would refer to spun golden threads woven into hair.  This is a significant as we can see a similar technique used in the first line of Griffin’s sonnet.  Griffin describes his lady’s hair as “threads of beaten gold” (line 1), which is similar to what Shakespeare depicted in his poem.  The only difference is that Griffin praises the precious hair of his lady; unlike Shakespeare, he states that “black wire” should be grown on her head.  Evidently, as readers, we can see the drastic differences between the two poets’ perspective about women.

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        Shakespeare is a satirist when he began his poem, however, his negative implications began to alter as the sonnet reaches the third quatrain.  This is the first time where we see Shakespeare changes his attitude towards his mistress; he mentions that he loves the voice of his mistress, “I love to hear her speak…. That music hath a far more pleasing sound”(lines 9 and 10).  These two lines serve a very important role in this sonnet as it represents the gap between the qualities possessed by a “perfect woman” and the reality of Shakespeare’s mistress.  Shakespeare then mentions that he ...

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