Shakespeare is a 16th century poet and compared to Duffy a 20th century poet their approach to love is both similar and different. They each write about love in a different way and use some of the same images of love. The two Shakespearean sonnets deal with love in very contrasting ways. Sonnet 18 follows the traditional methods of using exaggerated comparisons. He compares the object of his love to a ‘summer’s day’ which makes us think of warmth, happiness- a perfect day, to suggest that she is the perfect lady.
However he says that she is more ‘lovely’ and ‘temperate’ which in a way flatters her. He approaches love in a fantasy way and suggests that their relationship as though it is, is the most wonderful thing in the world. She is only being compared to the best things in life, things like ‘summer’ and ‘heaven’, but her summer ‘shall not fade’. In other words, she will stay beautiful forever, unlike real summer itself, which eventually turn into winter. Although this flatters her, it is definitely not reality. It is rather exaggerated, making his praise of her hard to believe.
He even says at the end of the poem that the fact that she is described in his sonnet will make her eternal: she will live for as long as people read the poem. She might know that technically his praise is not true, but be flattered by it and love him even more. On the other hand the images in sonnet 130 are more negative, even if they are true. The cheeks of his love are not like any roses he has seen, her hair is compared to ‘black wires’, her eyes are ‘nothing like the sun’ (unlike in sonnet 18) and she does not walk on air like a goddess.
He even says her breath ‘reeks’ and her voice sounds nothing like music. This is not at all flattering, but it is the truth. Sonnet 18 may have been written just to please his love, whereas sonnet 130 is more believable and sincere because it is honest. The last two lines of sonnet 130 round because it is clear that he really does love her, describing her as ‘rare’. He suggests that to compare in an exaggerated way, as in sonnet 18 would be false. I think that sonnet 130 suggests, that he really knows the woman.
He does not flatter her; he knows that she knows he loves her for her inner self, not for her outer appearance. Shakespeare’s approach to love in this sonnet is more real and truth than his sonnet 18. In Valentine, Duffy does not use the normal modern expressions of love, ‘a red rose’, or ‘satin heart’, or a ‘cute card’ or ‘kissogram’. She compares love to an onion. Although the romantic word ‘moon’ is mentioned, it refers to the shape of the rings you see if an onion is sliced open. Onions make you cry, as love does sometimes.
Just like Shakespeare in sonnet 130, she is being honest and realistic- she actually says ‘I am trying to be truthful’, not giving false or exaggerated ideas of love. Duffy hint towards marriage when she mentions a wedding ring (again coming from the onion rings) and the words ‘possessive and faithful’ are positive showing that they do love each other… but ‘for as long as we are’ suggests that one day they might grow apart. Duffy’s approach to love is realistic in ‘Valentine’ and although she believes in love she also think people may grow apart, without their relationship being eternal.
The words ‘lethal and ‘knife’ seem quite negative, perhaps their love will die in time. Perhaps the love is hurting her. It is a realistic poem, and the strong scent, which ‘clings to your fingers’, reminds me of the ‘reek’ in sonnet 130. In ‘Words, Wide Night’ Duffy, unlike in ‘Valentine’, she finds it hard to describe love in words as it is an emotion hard to explain. There is also a moon in this poem, representing traditional comparisons used to express love, but here the moon is turning away, there is no romance left in her life.
She is not sure what she wants, is it ‘pleasurable’ or ‘sad’. The ‘dark hills’ are the barriers, which are preventing her from being with the person her loves. This could be because they are physically a long way apart or, have little in common mentally or emotionally. This poem ‘Words, Wide Night’ is ‘ an impossible song of desire that you cannot here’, suggesting that their love will never come to anything as her ‘lover’ if he exists, will never understand her, or even read this poem.
This is different to the end of Shakespeare’s sonnet18, where the poem was written to keep the lover alive forever. Duffy and Shakespeare approach love in similar ways both mentioning things such as the moon although each in a different context. Duffy gives an impression through both her poems that love is too hard to be described and really isn’t just wonderful, basically telling the truth as Shakespeare did in sonnet 130. However he didn’t tell the truth in sonnet 18 although it is a very flattering poem.