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.