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.