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Love In The Poetry Of The 16th And 17th Century

1462 words - 6 pages

During the 16th and 17th century, many love poems and sonnets were written and most likely circulated for amusement and satire among poets. Though every poem is written about the poet’s undying love for their beloved, they all display different attitudes to love and ways of showing it.

In 130, Shakespeare writes of his dark lady, portraying a real picture of her genuine features. Almost every line at first glance seems like an insult to his mistress, ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;’ however, the reader can understand that he is in fact celebrating her natural beauty. It is known that poems were circulated between poets and the poem attacks other poets who flatter their lovers with false comparisons and ridiculous promises, ‘as any she belied with false compare’. Shakespeare claims that that he loves his mistress so much that he can be truthful about her and not exaggerate a beauty that is not there, which conveys a more sincere and genuine tone than a flattering love poem.

‘And yet, by heaven I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare’

Shakespeare writes with huge emphasis on her less attractive features, ‘But no such roses see I in her cheeks;’ illustrating that in spite of all these flaws, he still loves her for her intelligence and her spirit ‘I love to hear her speak’ and that it is her imperfections that make her perfect for him. He also makes it very clear that he does not appreciate the artificial efforts women make to enhance their appearance ‘And in some perfumes is there more delight’. The phrase suggests that although perfume may have a delightful smell in comparison to his mistress’ breath ‘Than in the breath my mistress reeks’ it is insignificant to him as he is more interested in what she has to say ‘I love to hear her speak.’ The reference to her breasts as ‘dun’ emphasizes that he loves that fact that she is not conventionally pretty; white skin was very fashionable and dun portrays her as off-white and realistic since no-one has truly white skin. Furthermore, ‘Black wires grow on her head’ is an example of his love for her individuality as blonde hair was incredibly popular.

At the end of the sonnet, Shakespeare uses a very definite and certain rhyming couplet to accentuate his love for her. ‘And yet by heaven I think my love as rare’ creates an atmosphere of confidence in the way that he swears that his love for her is genuine and special. The line ‘As any she belied with false compare’ has proved his love; that he does not need to lie about her and unrealistically flatter her to love her.

Taken as a whole, the sonnet conveys a very unusual attitude to love. Shakespeare has not written anything loving or flattering about his mistress in the sonnet yet the most striking feature is how romantic the poem is. The reader can truly understand Shakespeare’s passion and love for her in the way that he is completely honest about her.

On the other hand, in Shall I compare thee…?...

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