Exploring Love in Shakespeare’s Sonnets Essay

Exploring Love in Shakespeare’s Sonnets Essay

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In Plato’s Symposium, the discussion on the nature of love between Socrates and his companions in the house of Agathon clearly discerns key ideas that Shakespeare uses in the sonnets. Beauty, youth, and love are all topics of discussion in the conversations, and Plato’s ideas show up again and again when the sonnets are explored. In Symposium, Aristophanes gives a detailed description of a time when humans were not in their present physical form (Plato 353). His tale posits that the original form of humankind differed from the present in that “sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number,” to which he adds, “there was man, woman and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature,” which is called androgynous (Plato 353). The physical nature of primeval man is discussed: "[Man] was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond" (Plato 354). Aristophanes goes on to explain that the gods split these beings in two so that primeval man would not be as powerful as them. Eventually, the halves are filled out to create symmetry. Plato says, “human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love” (Plato 357). Thus, the explanation of heterosexual and homosexual behavior can be delineated from this myth. The drive for love goes beyond the sexual into the spiritual. In Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poet persona battles feelings between a fair youth, who is often characterized as a young male, and the dark lady, who is a sensual female. Throughout th...


... middle of paper ...


... of Plato’s knowledge into one metaphysical string of sonnets dealing with two great organs geared towards the pursuit of beauty and truth, and he has made the arguments therein immortal, timeless, and beautiful, bringing every reader to a better understanding of Platonic love.





Works Cited

Plato. “Symposium.” The Works of Plato. Edman, Irwin, ed. New York, NY: Random House. 1956.

“Eye.” Oxford English Dictionary. Second ed. Volume V. 1998.

“Heart.” Oxford English Dictionary. Second ed. Volume VII. 1998.

Landry, Hilton. Interpretations in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.1964.

Shakespeare, William. The Complete Sonnets and Poems. Ed. Colin Burrow. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2002.

Violi, Unicio J. Shakespeare’s The Sonnets. New York, NY: Monarch Press. 1965.

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