Exploring the Complexities of Love in Poetry: Shakespeare, W. H. Auden and Theodore Roethke
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Love is the universal principle, or motivation for an individual’s activity. It generates the passions and desires which animate human life. It is a recurrent theme in William Shakespeare’s “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun,” W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues,” and Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz.” These three poems present love under three different circumstances. Integrated by the two dimensions, specifically in terms of eros and agape, and using the elements of poetry such as similes, hyperbolic language, personification, and symbolism, “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun” highlights love despite social norms, “Funeral Blues” shows love despite death, whereas “My Papa’s Waltz” emphasizes loving despite both the social norm and the death of his ideal father.
In “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun,” Shakespeare uses negative similes to express the erotic love which is heavily emphasized upon by the society. Human beings are generally attracted to certain physical qualities in a person rather than their character. The term eros is used to describe the nature of love which places high importance on the physical and sexual desires. As Kieran Bonner notes in her article, eros is “the progeny of need and resourcefulness” (Bonner 123). It is egocentric, acquisitive love which focuses on how the lover can fulfil a person’s sexual and physical desires. Similarly, the sonnet indirectly emphasizes how society wants a man to choose his lover based upon how desirable the female is. The poem commences with the lines, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun / Coral is far more red than her lips’ red” (1-2). This use of negative comparison in the preamble, by indirectly stating what the mistress lacks, draws atte...
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Auden, W.H. "Funeral Blues" Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 1102-1105. Print.
Bonner, Kieran. "Eros And Ironic Intoxication: Profound Longing, Madness And Discipleship In Plato’S Symposium And In Modern Life." History Of The Human Sciences 26.5 (2013): 114-31. EBSCO Host. Web.
Pope Benedict XVI. "Deus Caritas Est - Encyclical Letter, Benedict XVI." Vatican: the Holy See. Vatican Website. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005. Web.
Roethke, Theodore. "My Papa’s Waltz" Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 1102-1105. Print.
Shakespeare, William. "My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun" Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 1102-1105. Print.