Pre-1914 Poetry William Shakespeare (1562-1616) Sonnet 29, and Sonnet 130

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Shakespeare is renowned not only for his ability in writing plays, but also for his talent in writing sonnets.

Shakespeare wrote over one hundred and fifty sonnets, most of which concern love and affection. In this essay, we will be looking at two of his famous sonnets, Sonnet 29 and Sonnet 130. Shakespeare’s description in Sonnet 29 gives us a clear insight of what people expected to read in the sixteenth century. However, Sonnet 130 counteracts Sonnet 29 by subverting convention. We will be looking at their similarities and differences.

In Sonnet 29, Shakespeare is expressing his admiration of a loved one. The sonnet reflects on the poet’s insecurities (“I all alone between my outcast state”); this illustrates his state of self-pity. As we read on further through the poem (“And look upon myself and curse my fate”) we can comprehend that this poet is almost self-loathing. He feels envious (“like him with friends possessed”); and, as we draw nearer to the octave (“With what I most enjoy contended least”) we gain knowledge of his discontentment in life that has influenced him to think this about himself.

As we progress to the sonnet’s sestet, the poem develops ironically. The poet gives us an account of his loved one’s beauty which has an uplifting effect on him, (“Like to the lark at the break of day arising”). He uses a simile for the sun’s uplifting effect on the lark. Sonnet 29 conveys the poet’s conventional admiration for his loved one (“That then I scorn to change my state with kings”); he pays her an exaggerated compliment. As mentioned earlier, most of Shakespeare’s works are conventionally written. However, Sonnet 130 is somewhat eccentric.

In comparison to Sonnet 29, Sonnet 130 is also written by a man who feels a deep affection for his mistress. Shakespeare commences Sonnet 130 by subverting the convention of love poems (“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun “); the poet does not pay compliments to his mistress. The sonnet continues describing his loved one (“If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head”); he is indicating that she is not an attractive woman. Further on, he describes her breath, (“Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks”), indirectly saying that she is unhygienic.

But as we approach the closing stages of the sestet, the poet portrays his mistress once again; (“My mistress when she walks treads on the ground. “) He means that his mistress, even though she does not look wonderful, is a regular human being. As the poem reaches its finale, the sonnet develops ironically. The writer gives us an account of his feelings; (“And yet, by heaven, I think my love is rare”). He declares that, even though his mistress is not visually attractive to many people, she is attractive to him.Shakespeare ends the poem with a short statement; “as any belied with false compare”.

He is conveying the idea that nothing can compare to his mistress. There is a radical difference between Sonnet 29 and Sonnet 130. Sonnet 29 expresses the poet’s socially acceptable appreciation for his mistress. He makes an overstated, flattering remark and gives us a description of the uplifting effect on him of her approval.

However, Sonnet 130 counteracts Sonnet 29. The writer rejects the notion that his mistress is physically attractive, but afterwards gives us an account of his feelings for her.Sonnet 29 and Sonnet 130 have many differences, but their principle is similar. The sonnets are written to praise their mistresses. The way Shakespeare constructed Sonnet 29 gives us an idea of the expectations of the society in the sixteenth century.

However, we can also learn that sonnets such as Sonnet 130 are created to counteract people’s preconceptions. A large number of love poems were written in that period, but most of them had the same purpose…. to flatter men’s mistresses.

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