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    Compare and Contrast the “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” and “Sonnet 130” Essay

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    This essay is based on two sonnets, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” and “Sonnet 130”, both of which are written by William Shakespeare. Although the poems are different to each other, they both come across as having the same meaning. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” is a traditional, romantic love poem of the seventeenth century. The purpose behind the poem is to flatter women. In the poem, Shakespeare compares his love to a summer’s day.

    The way he does this is by highlighting all the negative points about summer and saying that she is much better. He beguiles her into thinking that in comparison to a day of summer she is much more extravagant. On the other hand “Sonnet 130” contradicts this poem. In “Sonnet 130” Shakespeare mentions all the bad points about his mistress in comparison with the small beauties in the world. This may sound as though he is unromantic towards his mistress, but he says that despite his mistress not being perfect, he still loves her as she is ‘rare’.

    In this poem he is very critical towards other sonnets, for being over exaggerated and unrealistic to flatter women, as he feels it doesn’t do women any justice. The irony about this is that, “Shall I compare thee…” is written by Shakespeare in a traditional form as well as “Sonnet 130″but this is written to exploit poets, who misguide women into believing they are love goddesses, but “Shall I compare thee…” does exactly this, so in a way Shakespeare contradicts himself.

    The poem “Shall I compare thee…” poses with the question, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? , this opening line gives the impression that the author is going to compare his love to all the beauties of ‘summers’ day, but instead it follows on to say that she is more lovely and more ”temperate” than a summery day, as a summery day has so many faults. He goes onto explain how at the start of summer the winds are rough and that they shake ”The darling buds of May” and he complains about the short, allocated time for summer. He also argues about how at times, the ” eye of heaven” shines with too much heat, and how often it’s ‘gold complexion is dimm’d’.

    This metaphor and personification about the sun being the ”eye of heaven” and having a gold complexion tries to represent, that although it is beautiful and has a big status, it is still not perfect. It may be fair, but sooner or later beauty fades and dies because of “nature’s changing course”. He says that his ”eternal summer” will never fade by giving her an immortal life through making sure that she is remembered through this poem as the perfect beautiful summer’s day. She cannot lose possession of her beauty and that death cannot even bring, his ‘wander’st in his shade’, as she is immortal.

    He completes the sonnet by coming to a conclusion that ”so long lives this it ” gives life to thee”. He says that ”so long as men can breath, or eyes can see” which is forever, his love will be loving in this poem as the most beautiful and eternal lady. He can come to terms with all the things in life to end but he will not let his love be forgotten. As this poem was written in pre sixteenth century it would have been very romantic and flattering for a woman, at that time as traditional poetry like this was very common.

    Whereas now many women would find this poem to be rather dramatic and unreal, as he over exaggerates the negative sides to nature compared to his love. Throughout the poem it seems as though his love may be dead as he speaks about her a though she is a memory. On the other hand, ‘Sonnet 130’ criticises poems such as ‘Shall I …….. ‘ as it mentions right at the start that his, ”mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun”, implying the fact that the sun is beautiful but the eyes of his love are not.

    The sun is usually used to represent beauty, light and radiance by most poets like in ‘Shall I … ‘ it is described as the ‘eye of heaven, but in this poem Shakespeare says that his mistress’ eyes have none of these qualities. The sun can be used to be symbolic as all the world revolves around the sun but the world does not revolve around his mistress as she is an average normal person. He highlights ”the fairytale image” of women that most people have such as red lips , black hair, a white complexion and uses them to describe his mistress to be the opposite of all these and look unattractive.

    He describes coral to be redder than her lips, her breasts to be ”dun” (a muddy, grey colour) in comparison to white snow. Many other poets would use flowers like coral to describe their women to be precious or talk about their breast with great admiration, but Shakespeare criticises them. This shows that Shakespeare is not like most men who try to flatter women, or describe them to be beautiful. He talks about having seen ” Roses damasked red and white”, this may have a connotation to it: as damasked is a type of rose but it could also mean that he has seen red and white roses be unveiled.

    He says that he sees ”no roses… in her cheeks”, implying that she hasn’t got ” beautiful rosy cheeks”. He continues with saying that in ”some perfumes there is more delight” than in the breath of his mistress. This is being very honest and realistic compared to other poets who mention things like their lover’s breath to have a beautiful fragrance. He goes on to say that he finds music to have a ”far more pleasing sound” in comparison to when his mistress speaks.

    He also grants that he’s never seen ”a goddess go” and that his mistress ”when she walks treads on the ground” he is being very pedantic when he says this, as he is trying to say his mistress is no goddess as she doesn’t walk in the air she ”treads on the ground” he tries to be humorous by making comparisons between his mistress and a goddess. He concludes the poem by (swearing) that ”by heaven” he thinks his love as rare ”as any she belied with false compare”. He is basically saying that, although his mistress may not be perfect, due to her bad qualities, he still finds her to be unique.

    He says other comparisons by poets are false and unrealistic they are just flattering to women but his love is real. The closing lines of the poem are a bit ironic, as it is being critical towards other poets who try to flatter women, but in its own way these lines are flattering as he describes his women to be very special. It may be said that Shakespeare wrote this poem to his love at the time, or he may have wrote it through the perspective of another man writing to his love that is either alive or dead. Although both the sonnets appear to be different, they do have many similarities.

    Firstly, both of the poems carry the same purpose; to flatter women, but the techniques they use to do this, are different. In ” Shall I compare thee” Shakespeare uses the downsides to summer, to contrast his love with. Whereas in ”Sonnet 130” he uses the good qualities of materialistic things and compares them to his mistress, to show that even though she doesn’t have a perfect exterior, he says she is original and special to him. The structures of the sonnets also have a great similarity. An example of this is that the concluding lines of both the sonnets carry an important meaning and message to convey to the reader.

    The finishing lines summarise the importance of the poem, for example in “Shall I” the ending verses emphasize the fact that, as long as the poem exists so does the lady that the poem is talking about. In “Sonnet 130″ the ending lines justify why the poet is speaking negatively of his mistress, it is so that the poet can explain that his love does not have to be beautiful to be loved. Another similarity that the poems contain, are the inclusion of things like nature and colours, to build a creative image inside the reader’s mind.

    The sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee… mentions that ‘due to nature’s changing course…. every fair from fair sometimes declines’ basically saying, that things in nature do not stay as fair and beautiful forever, as they are affected by the different seasons, emphasizing the bad points to nature. However, in ‘Sonnet 130′ the poem talks about nature and weather in a more positive way, for example when it mentions that ”my mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”. The sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ talks overall about summer and briefly mentions the colour of the sun when it talks of its ‘gold complexion’.

    Whereas ‘Sonnet 130’ mentions colours on a more wider scale, as it mentions a lot about the colour of snow, coral and roses ‘if snow be white… ‘. Another thing that the poems have in common, is the mentioning of flowers, ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ states how the ‘rough winds shake the darling buds of May’ basically saying how the strong winds at the start of summer do injustice to the spring flowers, by disturbing them.

    Although ‘Sonnet 130’ mentions different types of flowers, it doesn’t directly say anything about their beauty, an example of this is ‘I have seen roses damask’d…. ut no such roses see I in her cheeks’ it makes the reader assume that the poet finds the colour of roses to be beautiful in comparison to his mistress’ cheeks. Another common factor that the two poems have are that Shakespeare talks on a scale of macrocosm as in both poems he mentions the existence of ‘ a heaven’, in ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ he mentions the ‘eye of heaven’ and in ‘Sonnet 130’ he swears ‘by heaven’.

    One of the most significant comparisons between the two poems is the mentioning of the sun. ‘Shall I compare thee… highlights the bad points of the sun, such as; how it lets out intense heat. The poem does not refer to the Sun by its name; instead it is metaphorically described as the ‘eye of heaven’. It gives the sun an important position by giving this particular description. In ‘Sonnet 130’ it gives importance to the sun ‘my mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’ indirectly implying that the sun is beautiful, radiant and full of life whereas his mistress’ eyes have none of these qualities. Both of the poems give a reference to the sun, showing its importance.

    The two poems use the significance of the sun in different ways, to compare or contrast it with the ladies they love. The poem ‘Sonnet 130’ gives a direct opinion that not all women are goddesses and that the ‘mistress’ that the poem talks about is no goddess as ‘when she walks, she treads on the ground’. He is trying to be humorous about how other poets describe the ladies that they love to be goddesses, when in actual fact no one knows what goddesses look like or even if they exist.

    However, ‘Shall I compare thee… indirectly mentions all the qualities of a goddess to be in the lady he loves, assuming that he knows what a goddess is like. The lady appears to be a goddess as she appears to have supernatural qualities. This is perceived through the poet’s description of the lady being better, in equivalence to things like nature and also through the belief of the poet that his love is immortal and eternally living that even death can’t affect her. The two poems can be compared in terms of their structure, concepts and the way they convey their message to the reader.

    The sonnets do differ quite a bit, through the approaches that are used by Shakespeare. The poems can be contrasted through the techniques that Shakespeare has used in each poem, for example, in ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ Shakespeare uses literacy techniques, like personification and metaphorical speech when he describes the Sun, ‘eye of heaven… gold complexion’. Whereas in ‘Sonnet 130’ Shakespeare prefers to use similes to compare his love to other luxuries and not once does he use metaphorical speech or personification.

    Shall I compare thee… ‘ uses literacy techniques to beguile his love into believing his false promises. However, ‘Sonnet 130’ uses literacy devices, to destroy these false promises that other poets make. Shakespeare uses the technique of being pedantic and humorous to a great effect in ‘Sonnet 130’. The purposes of both poems are the same; to convince the ladies mentioned, that they are very special. The way they do this is very different though, Shakespeare has written ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ to be seriously convincing and romantic.

    Whereas, he has written ‘Sonnet 130’ to be more humorous and critical rather than serious and romantic. ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ is over exaggerated and quite unrealistic, due to the supernatural element of the women that is used. However, ‘Sonnet 130’ is much more realistic and convincing than ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ as it eliminates all these false images of women from people’s mind and introduces the idea that you do not need to be beautiful to be loved. The two poems contain sentences that play on our senses. ‘Shall I compare thee… ‘ concentrates on the senses of seeing and touching, ‘… inds shake darling buds of May’.

    However ‘Sonnet 130’ uses a wider range as it uses the senses; seeing, smelling and hearing, ‘music hath a far more pleasing sound’. Out of the two poems I most enjoyed “Sonnet 130”. This is because I found ‘Shall I… ‘ to be typically romantic and quite old fashioned, as I thought it was over exaggerated and too serious. However, I found “Sonnet 130″ to be extremely enjoyable. This is because it was very humorous and sarcastic and I though it was quite a unique love poem compared to others that I have studied.

    I think that it would really appeal to a young, modern female audience due to its criticism of poets’ stereotyped image of women. Along with being humorous it is also very romantic as it basically sends the message that no matter how a person looks on the outside it is what they are like on the inside that makes them special. It also shows that being unique does not mean that you have to be beautiful it’s just your inner qualities that make you beautiful; these sorts of messages that are sent through the poem are very romantic.

    Shall I… ” is a poem that sort of indoctrinates women, into thinking that they are better than natural beauties, but it is well known that this is being quite untrue. It is being unfaithful to women by making all these false promises. Both of the poems are very effective in different ways due to the literal devices that are used by Shakespeare. These two sonnets are a perfect example of Shakespeare’s versatility in writing love poems but with totally different approaches.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Compare and Contrast the “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” and “Sonnet 130” Essay. (2017, Oct 19). Retrieved from

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