From the beginning of time human kind has had the urge to communicate their feelings, emotions and thoughts whether it be in the form of speech, writing, dancing or singing. The complexity of man’s emotions forced him to express these feelings through writing. Poetry is the most common form of this expression. Brilliant poets such as John Donne and William Shakespeare expressed their thoughts and emotions in the form of sonnets. A sonnet is a lyrical form of poetry and is comprised of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter. Their poetry is very similar in many ways but also have many contrasts’. This essay aims to compare and contrast the poems Holy Sonnet X by John Donne and William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73.
Shakespeare wrote his sonnets between 1593 and 1597. This was a time of “courtly love” where poets described their beloved in a perfect way. The Pertrachan sonnet, comprising of fourteen lines with two sections, an octave (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines), was at its peak. Shakespeare diverged from this style of sonnet in form and subject matter. He preferred to write his sonnets in what is called an English sonnet (Shakespearean), comprising of fourteen lines with two quatrains (6 lines) and a couplet (2 lines) summarizing the poem. He also rejected the idea of portraying his beloved in a perfect way, most notably in Sonnet 18 ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’. Donne on the other hand rejected the Petrachan conventions completely in regards to subject matter, as Donne was obsessed with death. His sonnets however did take on the form of the Shakespearean sonnet. In the Sonnets being analysed they both have a common theme of death.
Donne’s Holy Sonnet X deals with death and the fear of dying where as Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 does not literally approach death but the metaphorical death of youth and passion. These topics suit the style of poetry because sonnets typically express thought and emotion; Donne and Shakespeare both...
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