Amer. Lit

Topics: Sonnets by William Shakespeare, British poems, Shakespeare's sonnets Pages: 6 (2043 words) Published: January 26, 2013
Possible Essay Questions:

1. Consider the imagery used in Shakespeare’s assigned sonnets, Herrick’s “To the Virgins,” and Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” Although their images differ, what do all these poets seem to be saying about time? Be specific when referring to the poems.

The imagery is very different, but all of the poems and poets seem to be saying time is important in life. In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 he says, “And every fair from fair sometime declines,” when explaining the inevitable decline in appearance of his friend (Line 7). In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 he says, “I all alone beweep my outcast state,” suggesting that he regrets the decisions he has made in his life and might have made different decisions if he was given the time (Line 2). In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 he says, “That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, / As the deathbed whereon it must expire,” implying that his friends youth will not last forever (Lines 10 – 11). In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 he says, “rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle’s compass come” (Lines 10 – 11). Sonnet 116 mentions that love will outlast time, but also insinuates in lines 10 and 11 that his physical appearance will decline. In Herricks “To the Virgins, to make Most of Time” he says, “Then be not coy, but use your time, / And while ye may, go marry,” suggesting to live life to the fullest (Lines 13 – 14). In Mervell’s “To His Coy Mistress” he says, “Rather at once our time devour,” when trying to convince a lady to make love to him (Line39). Line 39 is significant because the speaker is suggesting that they should satisfy their lustful temptations while there is still time. All of these poems and poets us different imagery ranging from insects to seasons of the year, but the overall theme is the same. Time is important and should not be wasted.

2. How do Shakespeare’s sonnets differ from other sonnets of the time? Use specific details from at least two sonnets as examples.

Shakespeare’s sonnets differ from other sonnets of the time for two main reasons. First, sonnets were typically about a man’s love for a woman, but Shakespeare wrote about his love for a male friend. For instance, in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 he says, “Thou art more lovely and more temperate,” explaining that his male friend is beautiful and more consistent than a summers day (Line 1). In a typical sonnet about a woman, there would be specific descriptions about her physical features, but that is not the case in Sonnet 18 because he is writing about a dear male friend. Shakespeare mentions this friends beauty in a general way, but not as descriptive as he might a woman. Also, when Shakespeare does write about his love for a woman, he worships dark, unattractive characteristics rather than attractive ones. In Sonnet 130 he says, “My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun…And in some perfumes is there more delight / Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks,” indicating his mistress is not desirable and has bad breath (Lines 1 & 7 – 8).. He goes on to say, “I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound…And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare,” not only furthering his argument that she is repulsive, but that he loves her anyway (Lines 9 – 10 & 13). During this time it was common to write sonnets about a man’s love for a women while describing her desirable features, but Shakespeare wrote love sonnets about a man and when he did write about a women, he outline several undesirable features.

3. Discuss Aphra Behn’s views on Oroonoko’s enslavement. What are her views on slavery in general? What irony exists in her views?

Aphra Behn’s views on Oroonoko’s enslavement are that it is unfair to be treated as beneath another group of people. When describing the captains behavior in tricking Oroonoko into enslavement she says, “Some have commended this act as brave in the captain; but I will spare my sense of it, and leave it to my...
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