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