After studying all the Sonnets I have realised that they all use interesting language and there are many comparisons and contrasts, which one can make between them. The three sonnets, which I have studied, are ‘Let Me Not’ and ‘Shall I Compare Thee’ both by William Shakespeare and Donne sonnet number 10.
In the first quatrain of “Let Me Not” by Shakespeare uses formal language “marriage of true mindes”. In fact this language is very similar to the wedding vows. It also suggests honesty and fidelity and they are joined together as in a marriage of love.
“Let me not…admit impediments” Shakespeare is saying that true love has no obstructions, he then explains why. Love does not “alter when it alteration finds” means that it is not affected by change in one of the lovers, in the situation. Love does not bend “with the remover to remove” means that when one person ceases to love, the other does not. He uses repetition effectively; “‘love is not love’, ‘alters…alteration’, ‘remover to remove'” this repetition links these phrases together which amplifies that these acts are not true love.
In the second quatrain Shakespeare begins with “Oh no.” He is emphasising through this exclamation how wrong his previous lines were. He creates a contrast with what is true love; this suggests Shakespeare’s strong feelings on the subject of love.
Love is “an ever fixed mark” this suggests that love is unmoveable. He then further emphasises this by saying, “never shaken” by “tempests”; tempest suggests a fiercer, wilder weather than a storm, but love can resist this.
Love acts, as a guiding “star” to a “wondering barke” the star is trusted by the sailors to lead them on. It also suggests love is like a star and will not move or be disturbed.
The third quatrain is more about how time will affect love. “Loves not times foole” this means that true love is not deceived by changes of time, even though appearances have changed “rosie cheeks and lips” fade with time.
Love does not come and go with “breefe hours and weekes” not fickle. To “the edge of doome” means the end of time or the worst moment possible, maybe death. This passionate language is very effective in the description of love because it shows his true feelings.
In the final couplet there is a change in rhyme scheme. In the couplet he uses it to conclude his whole sonnet, he says; if my opinions are proved wrong, then I have never written before and no one has ever been in love. We know that both of these have happened because we have just read what he wrote therefore all must be true. This shows that the poet has confidence in his opinions about love.
“Shall I Compare Thee To A Summers Day” is also a sonnet by William Shakespeare he again uses the three quatrains to build up his argument and use the couplet as the conclusion at the end.
This sonnet uses much less formal as he is directing it straight to his lover therefore making it more romantic.
Shakespeare begins with a question then through out the poem he answers his question. He uses a syllogistic argument to answer it. He uses each quatrain to answer it in a different way. This is similar to the previous sonnet, where Shakespeare used each quatrain to describe a different aspect of love. The lover is more beautiful than a “summers day” because the lover’s beauty is unaffected by time and this is a direct link with the first poem. In the first poem Shakespeare says that time effecting love but in this sonnet it talks about time effecting beauty. Although summer’s beauty is affected by time and weather, Shakespeare’s lover is seemingly untouchable.
“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May” first beauty of summer is ruined by winds. Summer “hath all to short a date” it is fleeting and interrupted by other seasons. If we compare these points with the statement that love is not shaken by “tempests.” In the previous sonnet, we see how Shakespeare uses images of nature through out the two poems. Nature, like love, is beautiful but also as nature can destroy, sometimes itself through storms, while love is unchanged over time. This links also to the first poem how love is unchanged or unmoveable.
Summer varies in intensities “the eye of heaven” shines, too hot which is fierce and unpleasant. Or “often is his golden complexion dimmed” Shakespeare is personifying the sun here like in the first poem when Shakespeare personifies love. Shakespeare love is always pleasant, never less beautiful unlike the dimmed complexion of the sun.
Shakespeare returns to the theme of death with “death not brag”, like in the previous sonnet where he says, “times…bending sickle.” Just as in the Let Me Not where age cannot affect love, in this one death cannot reach Shakespeare lover. Death cannot “brag thou wondr’st in his shade” Lovers “eternal summer shall not fade.” Whereas the summertime must finish, Shakespeare lover lives in an “eternal” summer. There is an emphasis on continuity of love’s strength in both the poems. The lover’s “eternal summer” contrasts with “deaths shade.” In life it seems to shine with beauty so is unaffected by death. This may seem unbelievable that some one can escape death, but Shakespeare explains it in the final couplet.
In the final couplet Shakespeare uses it as a conclusion to the rest of the sonnet much like the first poem. Shakespeare says that so long as men live, “can breath” and read, “eyes can see”, his poem can be read and the description of his lover will remain. His poem “gives life to thee”, through the memory of her, people will know of her “eternal summer”, that is beauty, and it is eternal because people will go on reading his sonnet as long as they exist. Her beauty will remain as fresh as ever when she dies.
In the first poem it describes the strength of love because it is unaffected by time, while the second poem deals with how love and beauty can remain eternal.
Donne number 10’s most immediate similarity is that this is a sonnet like the others. This Poem is similar to the second one as he is speaking directly to Death, but this time he is not doing it to be more romantic so it is more powerful. It uses this devise so that the sonnet is like a challenge towards Death.
Donne starts the sonnet by saying Death is not proud because he is not mighty and dreadful. He uses monosyllabic words that make it more direct and powerful.
He personifies death, which makes it more personal to death; by personifying him he belittles him. We have seen Shakespeare use personification in both of his sonnets. Donne also patronises “poore” Death by doing this it gives the writer more power. Donne also creates power by using a very slow pace and using extremely long sentences within the lines of the sonnet. In these sentences he slows it down by using a lot of punctuation.
In his second quatrain he starts to describe “rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, much pleasure.” Donne is linking sleep and rest to pleasure. He then says that sleep is just a smaller version of Death so death must be even more pleasurable than sleep. Donne used a syllogistic argument by taking his argument forward in a logical way, as did Shakespeare in both his poems.
Death is a slave to “fate, chance, kings, and desperate men” he is now saying that Death does not control death. He then says that through “poppie and charmers” we can control death better than Death can.
“Why swell’st thou then?” he uses a question which links Donne’s poem with Shall I Compare Thee. He uses this question to be intimidating, not in the way that Shakespeare used his.
In the final couplet he concludes what he has said, but unlike in the Shakespeare poems he is not proving his Sonnet. He works on the argument that at the end of time, which is also a subject in the second poem, we shall wake and live eternally and because of this Death will not be alive either. He uses a wonderful irony at the end where he says, “Death, thou shalt die.”
The most obvious comparison between this poem and the others apart from the fact that it is a sonnet is that it is about avoiding death.
The two Shakespeare Sonnets both use the same rhyme scheme. They use the classic Shakespearian sonnet rhyme scheme. Donne’s sonnet is different because he uses a mixture of the Shakespearian sonnet rhyme scheme and the Petrachan rhyme scheme. They all also use iambic pentameter, which helps the sonnet to flow and gives it structure.
Finally I conclude that all three sonnets use language effectively and all use the sonnet structure to great advantage. The strict rules involved in writing sonnets show the great skill of both the writers as they choose this art form to express their opinions.