Sonnet XX, by William Shakespeare

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Sonnet XX, by William Shakespeare, is fraught with wordplay and ambiguity. Shakespeare misleads the audience with variety of puns and double entendres. Due to the large amount of criticism this poem produces, it is necessary to analyze this piece twice: once from the perspective of a female attraction, and once from the perspective of a male attraction. Only when both sides of this equilibrium are examined can true insight be achieved. It is my goal to present the same mystifying experiences as Shakespeare: the initial debate as to whether this fair youth is male or female, and the ultimate debate as to whether our narrator’s intense fondness for this youth is the result of platonic love or carnal lust. After all, Shakespeare obviously created this uncertainty for a reason. The question that remains is “Why?” Sonnet Twenty opens with the line “A woman’s face, with nature’s own hand painted.” This leaves us with the impression that the narrator, an unidentified young man, perhaps even Shakespeare himself, is describing a beautiful young woman. A woman so beautiful, in fact, that she has no use for cosmetics, because Nature personally took time to craft her. Nature is an artist and the object of our narrator’s affection, which the reader originally believes to be a woman, is her work of art, her canvas, so to speak. Continuing from this is the second line, “Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion”. This line contains our, antithesis—“master-mistress”—in that the pair of words are complete opposites. These titles of ranks suggest that the woman simply mesmerizes our narrator. She is the object of his love and sexual desire. In fact, the word “mistress” suggests that our narrator may be participating in infidel... ... middle of paper ... ...autiful and gentle. These traits are more often associated with females, so the fact that the individual has a penis, indicates that Nature indeed muddled her own creation. As I have stated, Nature is almost always referred to as a “she” (see line ten). So, if this woman found herself attracted to a member of the same sex, as is hinted at through the phrase “fell a-doting” (which can be “to be infatuated” or “to love to excess”), and if this same omnipotent force disapproved of such relationships (if only for the simple fact that same sex relations do not produce offspring), would it not make sense for her to alter this individual? If only to be led into a temptation which contradicts her morals? It would. Through this act, Nature is condemning homosexual acts, even though she is quite aware that the emotions will not cease. She only wishes not to participate.

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