Shakespeare’s sonnets based on the Petrachen sonnets usually focused on love. They have a strict structure of fourteen lines, written in three quatrains and a rhyming couplet and have a rhyming scheme of a, b, a, b, c, d, e, f, e, f, g, g.
Designed as personal poetry, they were usually written to be circulated only among friends and acquaintances.
Although based on the Petrachen sonnet, Shakespeare was following a fashion of sonnet writing in the 16th century.
The subject of the sonnets was often thought to be about ‘fairboy’ or ‘dark lady’ although Shakespeare never made reference to their actual names.
Metaphysical poetry, however, had different features.’ For example metaphysical poets such as John Donne and Andrew Marvell used techniques like highly intricate word play, paradoxical imagery and persuasive literary devices such as paradox and hyperbole. Their purpose in employing these techniques was to capture the reader’s attention by using strangeness, humour or sheer outrageousness.
As a result of this style, the metaphysical poets received criticism particularly from Samuel Johnson who accused of it being “far-fetched”.
The writer’s intentions in each sonnet differ. In ‘Shall I compare thee…’the poet attempts to show how his subject is far more beautiful than the beauties of nature. For example, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summers day? Thou art more lovely and more temperature’. Here, the poet poses a rhetorical question to explore how the subject is better than natural elements in beauty and serenity. However, Shakespeare’s intentions in ‘My mistress’ eyes…’ subvert the conventions of sonnet writing by using criticism in the three quatrains for example, ‘And in some perfumes is the more delight than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.’ Then in the couplet he completely suprises the reader by declaring his love for example ‘I think my love as rare…’ he does this because he is being honest and not comparing the loved one in a false way.
However, Shakespeare’s intentions in ‘My mistress’ eyes…’ subvert the conventions of sonnet writing by using criticism in the three quatrains for example, ‘And in some perfumes is the more delight than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.’ Then in the couplet he completely suprises the reader by declaring his love for example ‘I think my love as rare…’ he does this because he is being honest and not comparing the loved one in a false way.
Through metaphor, the poet is able to place an image in the readers head for example “I have seen roses damasked, red and white, but no such roses see I in her cheeks” but in ‘Shall I compare thee…’ through metaphor the poet is also able to engage the reader by placing an image in the reader’s head for example ‘the eye of heaven’ which means the sun and the sun places the object beyond heaven as an almost god like figure.
‘My mistress’ eyes…’ initially employs a series of comparisons to catch the reader’s attention. For example ‘if hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head’ when Shakespeare wrote this the first part of the sentence leads you into an illusion where you think he is going to finish the compliment but he brings you back to reality and says ‘black wires grow on her head’.
In both sonnets the poet has employed hyperbole to assist with his comparison. Firstly in ‘Shall I compare thee…’ he quotes ‘ but thy eternal summer shall not fade’ and secondly in ‘My mistress’ eyes…’ he quotes ‘grant never saw a goddess go’. Both of these are examples of hyperbole as his mistress is not a goddess and summer is not eternal so it will fade.
In terms of structure both sonnets follow the Shakespearean conventions of sonnet writing in many ways however, ‘My mistress’ eyes…’ subverts many of the convention. In the 16th century, there were certain expectations associated with sonnet writing such as; it was a method of seduction or declaration of affection. Mostly Shakespeare also uses the sonnets to manipulate expectations. Women also expected the sonnets to list their qualities such as how beautiful their eyes were etc. the poet’s also often reversed convention to arouse humour in the reader.
Rossetti’s ‘Remember me when I am gone…’ also a sonnet is written to express love and the desire not to be forgotten. However, there are differences such as the tone of the poem is very melancholy and a sonnet is usually a cheerful poem where the poet declares his love for the subject. The poem also is not a conventional love sonnet because she is not declaring not to be forgotton; she also does not compare anybody to anything for instance ‘Shall I compare thee…’ Shakespeare compares the loved one to a summer’s day, which highlights his or her superior features.
Marvell’s ‘To his coy mistress’ employs many of the conventions of metaphysical verse to present a highly original and erotic poem. It is the very methods of the poet’s passionate persuasion that Lady Montague criticises in ‘Answer to a love letter’.
Compared to Shakespeare, the metaphysics had a very elaborate and far-fetched attitude to love poetry. Marvell’s ‘To his coy mistress’ is a poem about achieving sexual relations with ‘His coy mistress’ as the key message is they will not be around forever. For example ‘Times winged chariot hurrying near;’ Marvell develops his argument throughout the poem using several literary devices for example paradoxical wordplay, hyperbole and elaborate conceits. For example “amorous birds of prey” although he uses the word amorous it is clear that Marvell does not want to be romantic and using the phrase “birds of prey” suggests that he is stopping at no limits and wants to ravage her.
He uses hyperbole for example “200 years to adore each breast ” which shows his frustration and desperation from being denied his personal desire-sexual relations with his loved one. Another literary device employed is elaborately developed conceits for example “deserts of vast eternity” using the term “deserts of vast eternity” implies a barren or passionless relationship and also using the phrase “vast eternity” poses that waiting forever will be too long because they won’t be around forever.
Marvell’s approach would have offended women at that times they would have expected, for men to declare their love for them, seduce them and compliment them.
It is Marvell’s attitude to love and relationships that seems to offend Lady Montague in ‘Answer to a love letter…’ she expresses her dislike for men. For example ‘how vile is man! How I detest their ways of artful falsehood’ this points out how her attitude to men is. Lady Montague is very aggressive and pugnacious and the exclamation after the word vile shows this.
It is clear that the poets studied had very different attitudes for love, for example Shakespeare’s ‘My mistress’ eyes…’ and Lady Montague’s ‘answer to a love letter…’ both have different attitudes to love. In ‘My mistress’ eyes…’ Shakespeare’s attitude towards love is he doesn’t believe in complimenting falsely and believes love is not about physical appearance. In ‘Answer to a love letter…’ Montague believes love hurts and it is false or deceitful which makes a connection between the two poems.
The poem, which had the greatest impact on me, was ‘An answer to a love letter…’ because William Shakespeare dominates the other poems and the poem compliments women in those days. ‘Answer to a love letter’ captured my attention straight away because it has an angry, intimidating tone and has several powerful literary devices also. The first literary device I saw was metaphors foe example ‘ Th’ already plunder’d need no robber fear’ this is a metaphor of thief and it means that she thinks men steal women hearts and break them.
Another powerful literary device which was used was repetition for example ‘you may see eyes, and you may feel a heart’ was repeated which makes it more powerful and that phrase stays in your head. This poem to me was the most powerful because it feels like she has personally gone through what she is waiting and about her personal experiences