Shakespeare's Sonnets – a View on Love

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  • Topic: William Shakespeare, Shakespeare's sonnets, Sonnet
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  • Published : April 28, 2008
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There has been some dispute whether or not the sonnets are actually written by William Shakespeare, the strongest argument for this is the phrase "BY.OVR.EVERLIVING.POET.", in which some, the most notable being the entertainment lawyer and author Bertram Fields, argue that this would mean the author would be dead by 1609, while William Shakespeare lived until 1616.[1] The 154 poems were most likely written over a period of several years and published in the 1609 collection. These were all in sonnet form and previously unpublished, with the exception of poem number 138 and 144 which had been part of The Passionate Pilgrim, released in 1599. Sonnets 18-126 tell the story of young man and the poet's admiration and love for him, while 127-152 are addressed to the poet's mistress. In this essay we will look at sonnets 18, 116 and 130 and what they say about love, and see if they share similarities with each other.[2]

Sonnet XVIII (18)

Sonnet 18 speaks of love in its purest form; it is obvious that the author has great admiration for the person the sonnet is addressed to, giving the subject an almost god-like and eternal status. If we look at the two first lines:

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:".

It is clear that he cannot use a summer's day as a comparison, because the person is better than a summer's day.
He goes on to explain how a summer's day is not perfect, saying that:

"Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May" and
"And summer's lease hath all to short a date".

This is believed to mean that even a summer's day has its faults, in the start of summer there can be rough storms that distort the beauty of darling buds and summer does not last for ever. At the end of the sonnet there are some very important lines, which speak of eternal life and beauty:

“But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade”

This can be seen as a promise that he will never die and be forgotten, nor will he lose the beauty which he owns. The last line could be a biblical reference “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil: for thou art with me”[3], even though death has taken him, his beauty will glow like a beacon and light up any shade death may have cast upon him, thus giving eternal life.

“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

As long as people live and breathe and eyes can read this sonnet, and as long as this sonnet lives, so will he. Thus making him practically immortal.

Sonnet CXVI (116)

Sonnet 116 is very interesting because it speaks of the love of love. Love is eternal, unchangeable and not subject to the words or actions mere mortals. Love can not be blamed for any faults, for love in itself is perfect. If we read the following lines:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds 
Admit impediments. Love is not love 
Which alters when it alteration finds, 
Or bends with the remover to remove:“

If love alters or takes on another form in any way it is not love, for love as he sees it can not be harmed or change. This is a very philosophical and obviously a poet's view of love. We will have to assume that what Shakespeare means is that love between people can change, but love as an idea will never wither or die.

“O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown,
although his height be taken.“

Love is not a variable, it is a constant and can not be shaken or blown out like a candle or rot away like our mortal bodies. If a person has loved, that love will continue to exist even until the end of days. Shakespeare writes:

“Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle's compass come: 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
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