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Comparing William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 130

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Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 130, by William Shakespeare, are two of the most well known Shakespeare sonnets. Both are similar in theme, however, the two poems are very much contradictory in style, purpose, and the muse to who Shakespeare is writing.

Both Sonnets have different styles. Sonnet 18 is a much more traditional poem, showing the reader a picture of his muse in the most divine way. Shakespeare uses a complex metaphor of comparing his subject to the summer, but at the same time making it easy to understand. The poet goes as traditional as possible; his friend surpasses the beauty of summer, as summer will fade and turn to winter. Sonnet 130 is just as easy to understand as the former. The use of straightforward comparisons that go from line to line, instead of one metaphor elaborated through the entire poem, makes this sonnet quite different in style. Sonnet 130, in contradiction to Sonnet 18, purposefully branches off from the traditional romantic love poem for he does not describe the subject as a true beauty but as his true love.

The two poems do seem to have a similar theme; both are focused around describing the poet’s muse. However, Sonnet 18 is not about love at all—Shakespeare makes no reference to love in the poem; he is merely describing how beautiful this individual is. Sonnet 130, on the other hand, is a true love poem, making direct mention to it in the couplet: “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare.” Surprisingly enough, Sonnet 18 shows more the love Shakespeare has for himself and his writing ability. In the last three lines: “When in eternal lines to time thou growest: / So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this and this gives life to thee.” he is basically saying that in his eternal verse his muse will forever live. And although the couplet is sweet, a different approach to its meaning would be: “As long as people can read, they will read my poetry!” Sonnets were created to show-off a poet’s skill and not their love—in Sonnet 18 it is most apparent.

The sonnets are similar in that the subject who which Shakespeare is writing is very dear to him. The most over looked difference, however, is who the subject actually is.
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