Monday, April 4, 2011

Hub Post: Looking at Love through the Sonnets and Romeo and Juliet

Thesis: Shakespeare's sonnets most likely reveal what his actual opinions were on true love and romance, while his plays often portrayed the opposite and were written for the primary purpose of making money. The play Romeo and Juliet specifically contradicts the ideas found within sonnets 18. 116, and 130.

Points to prove my thesis:
1. Shakespeare's audience: through a bit of my own analysis and research within the world of criticism, I found that the Elizabethan audience was much like we are today. Also, that Shakespeare's main motive for writing the content he did was to become popular and make money. His sonnets, however, were written for a much more private audience and can be trusted much more when it comes to analyzing what Shakespeare really thought about love.
Post of my own analysis
Post involving criticism
Post on Shakespeare's motives

2. Sonnet 18 vs. Romeo and Juliet: After establishing some things about Shakespeare's audience, I went to the text. In the analysis of sonnet 18 and Romeo and Juliet, I considered whether or not Shakespeare believed in love at first sight. My main message was:
It seems to me, knowing that Shakespeare’s sonnets were targeted towards a much smaller audience and probably reflected more of his real opinions, that Shakespeare is an advocate of reason, temperance, and moderation, rather than extremities and love at first sight.

3. Sonnet 116 vs. Romeo and Juliet: In analyzing these two particular works, I tried to find out if Shakespeare really believed in the swiftness and easily transportable love found with Romeo and Juliet or if he believed in the unchanging and constant nature of love found within sonnet 116. After reading up on what other scholars had to say, I determined that Shakespeare believed the latter. Sonnet 116 is an isolated work within the sonnets and it seems to be addressed to no one in particular, but a poem on love's nature in general. I took this as solid evidence that this was his true opinion.

4. Sonnet 130 vs. Romeo and Juliet: In Romeo and Juliet it seems that much of Romeo's love is based on Juliet's beauty. I talk about the idealized beauty of the Renaissance and how this play fits right along with it. However, sonnet 130 completely contradicts these ideas. I believe that Shakespeare was making a statement that no woman is ideal and true love has nothing to do with ideal beauty.

5. If you're looking for some contradiction to these ideas, I made a post much earlier on about how Shakespeare himself just might have believed in love at first sight. I have since changed my opinion, but this might be a good argument I make against... myself. Or it might be interesting to read to see how my ideas have developed.

Main messages of what Shakespeare thought about love:
True love is temperate
True love is unchanging
True love has little to do with ideal beauty

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Idealized Woman

The woman has always been idealized, and during the period of the Renaissance there was no exception. Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet, makes it clear that Juliet's ideal beauty was a big part of why Romeo fell in love with her. Romeo says when he first sees her:

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

The idealizing of women usually revolved around physical appearance and often in poetry, different parts of the body were featured and described. Shakespeare does this in sonnet 130:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

This sonnet, however, is very different from most poems and art work depicting women because it emphasizes this woman's unideal features. I've already established in my previous posts that I believe Shakespeare was catering to a different, larger audience with his plays, and therefore did not usually implement his actual beliefs about love into his plays. His sonnets, however, are much more revealing, and I believe sonnet 130 reveals Shakespeare's opinion that true love really has little to do with beauty, especially the idealized kind. In Shakespeare's Sonnets, the author says:

"This sonnet interrogates the notion of a casual or necessary relationship between ideal female beauty and male desire and instead presents the radical idea that there may be a disjunction between them. The point of the poem is not only that this particular woman does not meet the ideal standard of blonde Petrarchan beauty, but that no woman does."

So, I think Shakespeare is trying to make the point that ideal beauty doesn't exist. And even if it did, it would have little to do with true love.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sonnet 116 v.s. Romeo and Juliet

In my last post I discussed whether or not Shakespeare believed in love at first sight. Now, I would like to discuss what else he really thought about love, including its duration and constancy. I'm taking a look at sonnet 116 and comparing it to Romeo and Juliet. Mandy made a post about this and I found it very useful. And I'd like to explore the topic as well.

It's obvious that Romeo's feelings for Rosaline were very fleeting and left as quickly as he fell in love with Juliet. This swift storm of emotion seems to discredit Romeo's feelings of love. Is this what Shakespeare really thought of love? That it is able to change and transfer from one person to another. I'm guessing not. After reading and analyzing sonnet 116, I'm thinking that the content within this sonnet is what Shakespeare really thought.

In a book called Shakespeare's Sonnets, the author, Callaghan, says:

In 116, if we approach the sonnet in terms of an unfolding narrative, the poet seems to be separated from his beloved. Strangely impersonal in its tenor, this sonnet constitutes a proposition about the nature of love rather than a declaration of love to another person.

Knowing this, we can assume that this sonnet is Shakespeare's opinion on love in general.

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

Love is constant and cannot easily come and go.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Does Shakespeare Believe in Love at First Sight?

This week I’m comparing sonnet 18 to Romeo and Juliet to continue with my theme of love and romance. Within this post I am claiming that Shakespeare himself did not believe in love at first sight. I’m making a few assumptions, but I think you’ll agree that there is just enough evidence to reasonably make this claim.

In an article called “The Imagery of Romeo and Juliet”, Caroline F E. Spurgeon points out a lot of useful information. Romeo and Juliet fall in love immediately and their relationship moves extremely fast; they get married the day after they meet. However, they are both dead three days later. Before their deaths Juliet says of their marriage:

too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,

Too like lightning, which doth cease to be

Ere one can say ‘It lightens’;

The soft, beautiful images of light previously used in the play are transformed to dangerous manifestations of light, such as lightning. Also, the Friar says in regards to their hasty marriage:

These violent delights have violent ends,

And in their triumph die; like fire powder

Which as they kiss consume.

From these lines, it would seem the Shakespeare is not advocating the idea of love at first sight, but more so the dangers of getting wrapped up in this mindset. Comparing these lines to sonnet 18, this becomes even clearer.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

In this sonnet Shakespeare is describing someone’s beauty (probably a young man’s) and uses words like “temperate”. A website I found defined “temperate” as “evenly-tempered; not overcome by passion.” So, this person’s beauty is found in his temperance or his moderation of passion. It is contrasted with other phrases within the poem, such as “rough winds”, “too short”, “too hot”; his temperance is much more beautiful than the extremities of summer. This correlates back to Juliet’s words of “too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, too like lightning”, and the Friar’s words, “violent delights.”

It seems to me, knowing that Shakespeare’s sonnets were targeted towards a much smaller audience and probably reflected more of his real opinions, that Shakespeare is an advocate of reason, temperance, and moderation, rather than extremities and love at first sight.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Elizabethan Audience

suberabundant energy
soaring imagination
puffed with pride
reckless daredevil
sensuous and sensual
furious in hate and love
avid of swift sensation
primitive savagery of manners
violently passionate
frankly brutal

Just to recap, my focus is love and this week I'm comparing sonnet 18 with the play Romeo and Juliet. But first, I wanted to research Shakespeare's audience to hopefully shed some light on what was going through Shakespeare's head when he wrote on the topics of love. Alfred Harbage wrote an essay called "Shakespeare's Audience: Modern Appraisals" and in it he quotes Brander Matthews who uses the red phrases above to describe Elizabethan audiences. When I read this I thought, "I didn't realize Elizabethans were such intense, obnoxious people." However, Harbage goes on to explain:
Were Shakespeare's contemporaries truly such galvanic creatures? . . . Nothing we can discover from examining their daily routine, their frugal expense accounts, and their quiet and sensible letters suggests that Elizabethans, individually or collectively, were vastly different from us. . . We ourselves live in a spectacular age, without being individually spectacular.

I think it's useful to know that Shakespeare's audience was a lot like we are today. So why did the Elizabethans and why do we today thrive on such dramatic, extreme entertainment, especially when it comes to love and romance? I made a post about this at the very beginning of the semester and I compared and contrasted sonnet 18 to the modern trends in movies and literature. Check it out if you're wanting more on this topic.

In my next post I'm planning on comparing the text of sonnet 18 to the text of romeo and Juliet and drawing some conclusions about what Shakespeare really thinks of love and the idea of love at first sight. But I think knowing these things above about his audience for the plays will help in drawing those conclusions.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inside Scoop on Much Ado About Nothing

For those of you who went to see Much Ado About Nothing last week, one of my friends interviewed the girl who directed it for her senior project. I have her notes here, if you're interested in knowing what this girl envisioned and what she was going for:

Senior Project for Theatre Art Studies Majors- This project done by
Ronnie Stringfellow
Auditioned all majors, with different interests and types of people

Ronnie's concept for the show- We are one small adjustment from seeing
the truth in our own lives. This is what she wanted to get across to
the audience. She wanted to have Ah-ha moments for the audience.
Observing and recognizing truth. Applicable to everyone, She says
Shakespeare can often be distant, but she wanted to use it in the WWII
format to show the happiness and men coming home from war
-Beautiful lights, 1940's dresses, army suits, music from that time
period, in the Shakespearean verse.

Some people mentioned that some of the characters weren't played by the best actors. But knowing that they all came from different majors and such might give you more appreciation for the performers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Schedule for the Semester

My topic is love/romance, and I think I've finally narrowed it down! I want to draw conclusions of what Shakespeare really thought about love by comparing three specific sonnets with the play Romeo and Juliet. So, here is my schedule for what I'll be doing for the rest of the semester (for each of these I'm going to be trying to include textual analysis and any criticism that supports my arguments):

  • March 21-27: Compare sonnet 18 with Romeo and Juliet
  • March 28- April 3: Compare sonnet 116 to Romeo and Juliet
  • April 4-10: Compare sonnet 130 to Romeo and Juliet
  • April 11-17: Memorize a passage from Romeo and Juliet and a sonnet and perform them