Shakespeare’s 18th and 130th sonnets have similar messages, and yet manage to contrast one another entirely. Both sonnets discuss the uselessness of applying superlatives to the description of a person. The Bard’s 18th sonnet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” addresses someone who Shakespeare feels is more beautiful and perfect than a summer day and that even the clearest skies and loveliest flowers are no match for his beloved. Sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” also declares that comparing his mistress to nature would be inaccurate, however, in this instance, it is because she is the lacking party. These two examples illustrate a complete reversal in tone. The 18th is treacly and romantic while Sonnet 130 has a simple, pragmatic, and logical sense of reasoning that openly mocks the traditionally exaggerated sentiments ordinarily professed in sonnets.
Sonnet 18 discusses the idea that the usual poetic comparisons are invalid. Shakespeare introduces this idea by attempting to compare the object of his desire to a summer’s day and then indicates that even such a comparison does not do justice to his partner. This idea is exemplified by the repetition of the decline of nature and beauty. By comparing his partner to a summer’s day, Shakespeare would be admitting that she would eventually become less attractive to him and that she would eventually wither up and die, just like the summer. In order to prevent this catastrophe, Shakespeare uses this sonnet to immortalize his significant other, as stated in the couplet, which reads, “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,/ So long lives this, and this gives life to thee”(DiYanni 606). Whether intentional or otherwise, Shakespeare also uses this sonnet to immortalize the idea that people are beyond comparison; that they are made from a substance unlike any other. Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” has an identical message, but makes his point in a...
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