The Analysis of Antithesis in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 130 【Summary】This paper is a study of the approach of antithesis, which is embodied in Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 and sonnet 130. By the comparison between his fair friend and a summer’s day, we can see the contrast is one of the major approaches employed in these two sonnets. This is an effective way to make the objective prominent. While his greatness does not lie in the adoption of this common way of writing, it lies in his flexibleness and masteries in his writing in the process of employing the approach of antithesis. 【Key words】 antithesis, comparison, beauty, nature, human
William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His sonnets, a collection of 154 sonnets, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality, play a very important in his achievements. Among which, Sonnet 18 enjoys a wide reputation as the most famous one. Sonnet 130 is labeled as a satire on the conventions of the showy and flowery courtly sonnets. In sonnet 18, Shakespeare leaves the readers a wide extent to imagine the beauty of the fair youth and highlights the immortality of man’s beauty, spirit and creation. To achieve this, Shakespeare adopts diversified skills, among which antithesis is a very conspicuous one. This paper is going to discuss the approach of antithesis employed in sonnet 18 and sonnet 130. In sonnet 18, Shakespeare makes an antithesis between his young handsome friend’s beauty and a summer’s day. By describing the lacks of summer in certain respects, without any explicit depiction of his friend’s noble appearance, forms a flexible and effective comparison in which all of his friend’s beauty has been wonderfully highlighted. At the first line of the sonnet, Shakespeare asks a question, “should I compare thee to a summer’s day”. Immediately, follows the indirect answer in line 2, “thou are more lovely and temperate”. Here comes the comparison. Shakespeare compares his friend with a summer’s day. Summer is the finest and most pleasant season in England like spring in china. The beauty of his friend is more “lovely” and “temperate” than a summer’s day. “Lovely” suggests the outer beauty of the young fair and “temperate”, which means “gentle”, the inner beauty. Line 3 to line 6 is devoted to illustrate why the beauty of the fair youth wins that of a summer’s day. Significantly, Shakespeare does not use any words to describe how exactly handsome the fair youth is. Instead, he accomplishes the comparison initiated at the beginning by complaining the lacks of a summer’s day: being too short, too hot, too rough and sometimes too dingy. Does the comparison formed by sheer complaints go against the consensus that summer is the finest season in England? Basically not, from some expressions in the sonnet, like “the daring buds of May (means “the beautiful buds of the early summer”), “date (with summer)”, “the eye of heaven (refers to sun)”, “gold complexion (refers to the sun’s golden face)”, Shakespeare actually depicts a pleasant summer. However, though summer is such a pleasant season, it is still found to be lacking in so many respects. Therefore, Shakespeare contributes a couplet and a quatrain to complain these lacks, which curiously and naturally leaves readers the abiding impression that “the lovely boy” is in fact like a summer’s day at its best, fair, warm, sunny, temperate, one of the darling buds of May. The everlasting impression constitutes to the masteries and flexibleness of Shakespeare’s antithesis. In order not to profane the beauty of the fair youth, in order to avoid devaluation to the fair youth because of the different aesthetic standard varied from person to person, Shakespeare is not intended to describe the detailed characteristics of the fair youth’s beauty or compare him to some concrete beautiful items, instead, he...
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