Comparing the Beloved in Shakespeare's Sonnet 20 and Sonnet 130

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Comparing the Beloved in Shakespeare's Sonnet 20 and Sonnet 130 In the hands of a master such as Shakespeare, the conventions of the sonnet form are manipulated and transformed into something unique and originally emphasized. Both sonnets in one way or another subvert the conventions of the base Petrarchan sonnet; though they are about love, the traditional topic of sonnets, whilst in Sonnet 20 the object of desire is unattainable and there is no evidence of the level of affection being requited, the target is male, and the target of the poet's affections in Sonnet 130 is the poetic voice's current mistress. It also seems important to note that love in neither of these cases is of the generic youthful female Aryan stereotype, and in the latter case we are left in little doubt this is most definitely calculatedly to be so. Shakespeare's sonnet collection runs the gamut of a host of playful tweaks of the usual, routine sonnet; each break from convention serves not only to emphasise his particular point of the moment, but enrich the reading experience for those familiar with genre as it stood before Shakespeare's diversification. Sonnet 130 belongs to the 'dark mistress' group of the Sonnets, and is well-known and often selected for anthologies. This may possibly be because it conveys two opinions particularly beloved of Shakespeare — the purpose of this sonnet (indeed a number of the pieces of Shakespeare's sonnet arc cover this issue) is to challenge the conventional image of beauty of the era, which held pale skin and golden, wiry tresses to be the desirable zenith of female beauty. It is also, perhaps more importantly, seeking to challenge the almost wilfully insincere flattery demonstrated in the largely derivativ... ... middle of paper ... ... manner which befits the controlled nature of the sonnet. Ultimately, then, the sonnet mode of poetry is more inclusive than exclusive — given the necessary factor of an object or objectified personality, a skilled writer such as Shakespeare may use the form to describe that subject to any degree of intensity. Where these two poems are at their most similar, though, is in how each manipulates the expectations of the genre to provoke the interest of the reader. Looking at Shakespeare demonstrates how flexible the sonnet genre truly is, and how quickly it might become boring if allowed to become static and repetitious. 1. pg25, The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint, Penguin Classics, 1999 2. pg199, lb 3. from our lecture handout, The Sonnets: Some Issues of Genre and Context Bibliography: The Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint, Penguin Classics, 1999

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