William Shakespeare is unquestionably one of the most popular English speaking poets whose works are well known throughout the world. His world popularity is closely linked to his lyric works among which sonnets play probably the most significant role. It is necessary to underline that his sonnets are mainly focused on the theme of love and the poet attempts to depict love as an extremely strong feeling, a state of mind and spirit of an individual. Many of his sonnets radiate the insatiable affection of the poet to the subject of his love but, it is necessary to underline that the poet views love as an overwhelming power which devour an individual and rules his actions and thoughts, his feelings and emotions. Sonnets 18, 20 and 43 are perfect illustration of the great power of love which rules the poet and which he feels with all fibers of his soul.
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On analyzing his sonnets, it becomes obvious that the poet really admires his beloved. In fact, his love overshadows the surrounding world and is the most important thing to the author, it is the strongest feeling he cannot resist to. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that the power of his love turns to be stronger than any natural power. For instance, in his sonnet 18, William Shakespeare emphasizes the insignificance of the most beautiful and powerful things compared to his beloved:
Shall I compare thou to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate
At the same time, the author metaphorically compares his beloved to the most beautiful things that he can meet in the surrounding nature and which are overshadowed by the beauty of his beloved:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too shot a date
It seems as if the poet cannot fully enjoy the love, his love is really insatiable. William Shakespeare attempts to underline the significance of his love through its comparison to the surrounding nature. It is quite important since traditionally, nature was the subject of the admiration of many poets and was considered the greatest power.
On the other hand, William Shakespeare is fully absorbed by this strong feeling of love to which he cannot resist. He is totally controlled by his affection and he believes that this love will last forever as he states:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest
Moreover, even the death cannot terminate his love since:
Nor shall Death brag though wanderst in his shade
This means that the poet strongly believes in the eternal love which can last for the lifetime and even death cannot separate two persons in love. In fact, this is a really strong argument in favor of the overwhelming power of love since death is traditionally perceived with the end of the life but from the lines of this sonnet that has been just mentioned above, it is obvious that the poet has no fear in face of the death. In stark contrast, he views on the death as a trifle but the most terrible thing that can occur to him is to loose his beloved. This is why he insists that his love will last as long as he lives:
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So, long lives this and this gives life to thee.
In fact, this means that the love of the poet is so strong that he can readily sacrifice his own life for the sake of his beloved. Such self-sacrifice is worthy of admiration but still it symbolizes the great power of love the author attempts to covey to his readers. It should be said that this sonnet perfectly demonstrates that love is the strongest feeling a human being can have since it is sharper than any other feelings or even instincts to the extent that the instinctive desire to live gives in to the insatiable love of the poet that William Shakespeare skillfully depicts in his sonnet 18.
At the same time, this sonnet, as well as many others, reveals the idealistic and romantic views of the poet on love and life at large. He seems to be extremely emotional and he is unable to obey to the commands of his reason, instead, he is a slave of his love, his only master.
The same idea may be traced in his sonnet 20, where the poet also expresses his admiration and obedience to his love. In this respect, it is very important to underline that similarly to sonnet 18 William Shakespeare attempts to build certain correlations with his beloved and Nature, namely he states:
A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
And than the poet continues:
The master-mistress of my passion
In such a way, the poet directly indicates to the great power that his love has over him, to the extent that he is ready to totally obey to his beloved which turns to be not just a mistress of his but his master to which he serves. However, in this poem the author seems to be more conscious of the potential threats hidden in his insatiable and overwhelming love. To put it more precisely, the poet underlines that women are changeable as he states:
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
It is possible to presuppose that the author attempts to show that women are very complicated beings which may combine quite contradictive characteristics. At any rate, William Shakespeare argues that gentleness and goodness of his beloved may be superficial while he does not really know what is hidden beneath this mask of a good natured woman whom he adores.
At the same time, it should be said that this poem is more gender focused in the depiction of love compared to the previously discussed one. Nevertheless, it does not change the general view of the poet on love. However, it is necessary to emphasize that in sonnet 20 William Shakespeare rather view love as a powerful tool in hands of women with the help of which they can totally control men and make them obedient to their will and caprices. On the other hand, he attempts to show that men are blind in their passion for:
Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazes
At the same time, William Shakespeare actually tends to view the woman as a perfect being created by nature and the main function of a woman is just being a woman:
And for a woman wert thou first created
In such a way, the poet perceives his love as a natural passion to the living being which he cannot fail to reject or ignore. In other words, he simply cannot stop loving his beloved and he practically words it in like a natural law:
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
Moreover, the admiration of the poet with his beloved is so large that he simply cannot resist to his passion and his life becomes purposeless without his love since his life makes sense only:
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing,
This means that his love brings some purpose to his earth existence. In such a way, William Shakespeare again demonstrates the overwhelming power of love.
The important role of love as the only thing that really brings some purpose in the poets life is also revealed in his sonnet 43, where William Shakespeare attempts to show the extent, to which his life is dull and boring without love and it is only in his dreams when the poet is really free in his feelings and emotions he can really enjoy the life:
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look at thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed.
Similarly to the two sonnets discussed above, in sonnet 43 William Shakespeare also depicts a woman whom he love and, what is more, he attempts to convey to the reader his state when his soul, his mind and his body is totally obedient to his love, his only ‘master-mistress’. The author skillfully depicts his feelings and his love. He wants to show that his love makes his life really better. In fact, it looks like a drug on which the poet is totally dependent, the drug which brings some sense in his life and which makes this life brighter:
How would thee shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shades shine so!
Moreover, the poet views love as a great miracle that has a great power which can even heal his sufferings:
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
In fact, even though he meets his beloved in his dream this dreamy part of his life is much more important to the poet than his real life since:
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
In such a way, William Shakespeare perfectly demonstrated the power of love which makes his love better. In fact, his life is dark and worthless without love and, even though he can only dream about his love, these dreams are the happiest moments in his life and it seems as if he readily sacrificed himself to make his dream come true. In other words, he lives the real life only when he dreams because in his dreams he finds his love, while the rest of his life is rather a kind of martyrdom than the life he can really enjoy.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that William Shakespeare in his sonnets depicts love as the central theme of his works. In his view, love is really the great, if not to say, the greatest power which controls actions, ideas, thoughts of an individual. In his sonnets, William Shakespeare shows the extent to which he is admired with love to the extent that love makes his life purposeful. In fact, it is due to love the life becomes brighter and more interesting. It is even possible to estimate that love, according to Shakespeare, can totally change human life.—————————————————————————–
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