The “Virtuous” Mind
Sonnet Comparison Essay
William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser are two of the most prolific poets of their time. Both support a different vantage point on the way a woman should behave and the way love should be. At the time, love was conventionally defined as a woman who knew her place and was pure. However, there were women who spoke their minds and talked out of turn. They were considered to be shrews. Shrews were not married, and if they were, the person who married them would be considered to be daft. One poet supported the conventional view of love. While the other did not, and therein lies the difference. For foundation, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 145 proves that love means more to him then virtue, while Spenser’s sonnet Amoretti: 79 states that virtue means more to him than love. However, regardless of the fact that their values supersede each other, when compared, the topics of their sonnets are very similar. Both exhibit a representation of the speaker talking to a beautiful woman. Nonetheless, the difference between Shakespeare’s and Spenser’s views on the way a woman should act is astronomical. Yet, both write of love, beauty, and wit. Both men based their sonnets on the beauty and wit of women. In the first quatrain of Amoretti: 79, Spenser states, “Men call you fayre and you doe credit it/ For that your selfe ye dayly such doe see/ But the trew fayre, that is the gentile wit, and vertious mind, is more praysed of me.” What he is saying is that, even though men call you beautiful and you agree with them, true beauty lies within the virtues you exhibit. In Sonnet 145, Shakespeare agrees that a woman’s wit is more valued than her beauty, “But when she saw my woeful state/ strait from her heart did mercy come.” Despite the similarities, each man’s views on what love means is completely opposite. For example, Spenser writes, “That is true beautie: that doth argue you/ To be divine and borne of heavly seed.” What he is saying is that he...
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