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What different attitudes to love can be found in sonnets 116 and 130?

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In sonnet 116 it defines love, by telling both what it is and is not. In the first quatrain Shakespeare talks about what love is not. Shakespeare says that love is “the marriage of true minds” which is a metaphor for true love, ideal and perfect love. Shakespeare uses the word “minds” rather than words like “hearts”, he does this to let us know that perfect love is a partnership of the two thinking. Shakespeare then goes on to say “which alters when it alteration finds”. This line is very significant because it has repetition; Shakespeare is trying to say real love doesn’t alter when circumstances change, the love remains constant and that even when someone tries to “remove” affection, real love doesn’t give in and always survives. ”Or bends with the remover to remove”. In the second quatrain Shakespeare tells us what love is. In line 5 Shakespeare dramatically changes the tome with “O no!” to show he is changing from negative to positive and goes straight into the qualities of love. He says, an “ever-fixed mark” which is a star, to be exact the North Star, the only one that never changes its position in the sky.

In Elizabethan times sailors would find their location in the ocean based on the position of the stars. “Looks on tempests and is never shaken”. A “tempest2 is a fierce storm that destroys ships and sometimes kills people. Shakespeare uses this metaphor as a way to describe how powerful love is and that it can overcome Mother nature- love is immortal. Shakespeare tells us that love is a mysterious force “whose worth unknown” showing that love is priceless and beyond the ability of a man to evaluate even though, “his height be taken”. In quatrain 3 Shakespeare introduces a new figure which is known as time, in line 9 it says that love isn’t times “fool” saying that “ rosy lips and cheeks” of a loved one will fade as they age or be taken by the “sickle”.

The last two lines of quatrain 3 sum up the whole poem, that loves doesn’t change over time, it takes in the passing of time which is depicted as “brief” and lasts until “the edge of doom” which is known as judgement day or the end of time. By these lines we can see that this sonnet is idealistic not realistic and that love does not stay perfect or unchanged until the end of time. The couplet provides us with a closing statement. Shakespeare’s attitude is slightly sarcastic, he obviously believes his theory to be true because he ends the poem saying if someone cannot prove him wrong then he never “writ” nor has no man ever “loved”. This is poetic irony because Shakespeare did write so true love like the one described in the poem, exists.

In sonnet 130 Shakespeare talks about the dark lady. This sonnet is very negative, but compared to sonnet 116 it presents a more realistic perception of love. Usually Shakespeare doesn’t use the traditional, romantic, love poem style, to present the reader with a negative comparison; Shakespeare uses all the techniques available, including the structure of the sonnet, to enhance his parody of the traditional Petrarchan sonnet. The sonnet is humours and comical which shows that the attitude to love in his sonnet is light hearted. In this sonnet Shakespeare makes fun of exaggerated comparisons made by some poets from his day. He makes fun of images such as “skin as white as snow”, which is a hyperbole compliment appearing in poems written by Petrarch for example. This shows that Shakespeare attitudes to love are more realistic. Shakespeare shows in his sonnet that the Dark Lady is hasn’t got the ideal image of a perfect woman, but that his love is rare from this we can see that Shakespeare thinks that the poets that make “false compare” their love is not eternal and that perfection is a myth.

In the first quatrain Shakespeare compares the Dark Lady to things she isn’t, “coral is far more red than her lips, red” “her breasts are dun” and “my mistresses eyes are nothing like then sun “. As Shakespeare used parts of her body to describe her it suggests that his attitudes to love may be sexual. Shakespeare uses reverse negatives; “ I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses I see in her cheeks”, at first we think that Shakespeare is complimenting her then we see he goes on to insult her. The insults begin to take up two lines, which develop the tone. In the last two lines of the poem like in sonnet 116 it shows the main point of the poem and that after all that he was being sweet, realistic and loving and that most women do not have the ideal and perfect features because perfection is a myth and he is happy with his Lady the way she is.

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