William Shakespeare can be considered one of the greatest writers in English language of all time. He was born in Stratford in 1564 and it is well-known that he has written 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two long narrative poems. A widely held assumption is that he wrote his sonnets during the 1590s. Thus, they belong to the Elizabethan era, where literature was in one of the most splendid moments of the English literature. Consequently, William Shakespeare stands out in this period, not only for being a playwright, but also as a poet. His sonnets gave him a reputation and are considered to be ‘Shakespeare 's most important and distinctive contributions to lyric poetry, as well as the most profoundly enigmatic works in the canon '. Shakespeare’s sonnets can be divided into three different groups, as regards the subject of the poem. One of them would be constituted by the first 126 sonnets, where the addressee is a young man. The next sonnets, 127–52, would be addressed to ‘the dark lady’, whereas the last two poems are fables about Cupid. This essay will particularly focus on Sonnet 20 and Sonnet 130, making a comparison of the two poems by establishing a relationship between form and meaning.
In the first place, the two sonnets share the same theme: love. Sonnet 20 describes a person, apparently a man, with female features. The speaker’s voice is in love with this man, but it is an unattainable love. As it has been said, the addressee here is a young man, whilst in Sonnet 130 is a woman, the so called dark lady. In contrast, Sonnet 130 relates to the description of a lady, who is not particularly beautiful, yet the speaker’s voice loves her anyway. The target of the speaker’s affectio...
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... (l.4). Another poetic device is the inverted language such as ‘no such roses see I’ (l.6), or ‘in some perfumes is there more delight’ (l.7), and colourful imagery: ‘snow be white’ (l.3), ‘black wires’ (l.4), as an example.
In conclusion, Sonnet 20 and Sonnet 130 are two paradigmatic examples of Shakespearean sonnets. The message that may be conveyed in Sonnet 20 is that of the speaker’s homosexuality or bisexuality. In contrast, in Sonnet 130 it may be clear that the poem serves to criticise the real beauty, acting against the canons that were established, meaning that beauty is not always in the inside. Therefore, they are two poems that allude to the sense of sight in different ways. Nonetheless, they both convey an emotional effect: Sonnet 130 does it when describing the mistress whilst Sonnet 20 does it when speaking about the speaker’s love for the young man.
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