A Comparison of Romantic Love in Shakespeare's Sonnets & As You Like It

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Shakespeare's Sonnets & Romantic Love in As You Like It

    Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It is clearly a pastoral comedy with a country setting, a theme revolving around love and a story which consists of a series of accidental meetings between characters and a resolution involving transformations of characters and divine intervention.  The comedy involves the traditional literary device of moving urban characters into the country where they have to deal with life in a different manner.  Whereas the pastoral comedy was usually a vehicle for satire on corrupted urban values, in this play the satire appears to be directed at the convention of Petrarchan love.(Rosenblum, 86)


Renaissance conventions of love were strongly influenced by the elaborate system of love called the Petrarchan tradition.  An Italian poet, Francesco Petrarch, wrote a cycle of sonnets to his beloved Laura, which became internationally popular.  In his poetry, Petrarch professes his undying love, and laments her cruelty for not returning his passionate devotion.  He also describes the inspiration for his love - a single glance from her eyes.  In the course of his sonnets, Petrarch and Laura never meet or speak.  She may not even know he exists.  Midway through the sonnet sequence Laura dies.  Petrarch continues to adore and mourn her in verse years after her death.  His lyric poetry, meant to be read and not performed, is the first form for the self in conflict. 


English Renaissance poets admired and imitated Petrarch.  He centered his sonnets on a series of themes: Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time and Eternity.  Petrarch established the basic form of the Italian sonnet as fourteen lines divided into two clear parts, an opening o...

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...rold.Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

Booth, Stephen, (ed).Shakespeare's Sonnets,New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Dolan, Frances E (ed).William Shakespeare: As You Like It, New York:  Penguin Books, 2000.

Garber, Marjorie. "The Education of Orlando." In Comedies from Shakespeare to Sheridan, Newark: Univ of Delaware Press, 1986.

Hodges, Devon.  "Anatomy as Comedy." In Renaissance Fictions of Anatomy, pp50-67.  Amherst:  Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1985.

Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine (ed.s)  As You Like It by William Shakespeare, New York: Pocket Books, 1997.

Moulton, Charles Wells,(ed)  The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors Vol.1 (680-1638), New York: Peter Smith, 1935.

Rosenblum, Joseph.   A Reader's Guide to Shakespeare,  Barnes & Noble Books, 1997.


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