Monday, September 12, 2016

Informal Research about Sonnet 130--Micah

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-- Salempress' "Critical Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnets" says of Sonnet 130 that it's a deliberate attack on Thomas Watson's Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love, in which the object of affection is compared to a "saint I serve," with a voice like "musicke all of silver sounde," and roses and lilies on her cheeks. These exaggerated metaphors are great fodder for Shakespeare, who upends the Petrarchan ideal of blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty by suggesting his dark lady is mortal, but still far more dear to him than the Anglo fantasy goddesses that poets such as Watson seemed to write about almost exclusively.

-- www.gradesaver (which carries analyses of Shakespeare's sonnets) says that sonnet 130 just masquerades as an attack on Petrarchan ideals, Watson specifically. Its darker meaning has more to do with the speaker's mixed love/hate for the Dark Lady. The object of his lust, the Dark Lady is a far cry from the relatively innocent objects of most cavalier poetry--instead, she is almost TOO real, too mortal, and too unworthy of his affections. He acknowledges she is no goddess. But he still cannot give her up, and so the poem delves into his self-hatred as much as his undermining of the poetic tropes of the age.

this video of Tom Hiddleston reading sonnet 130 is curiously devoid of emotion, but I can picture the blankness as a mask which can support either the first or second interpretation. With Hiddleston reading, the sonnet is flexible enough to be a jab at Watson or a surrender to the unaccountable charms of the undeserving Dark Lady.

- I was texting with a seventeen-year-old friend (who has never read Shakespeare), and I persuaded her to read sonnet 130, just for kicks. This was her response:
"By the way, I just read Sonnet 130. It's sarcastic, full of sass, and yet kinda sweet at the same time . . . I like it." She obviously saw it as playful, not an attack on either Watson or the Dark Lady, just a clever reversal of the courtly love tropes readers would have been used to. I think hers is the safest interpretation, but I am inclined to favor the Dark Lady analysis, because it makes more sense within the context of all the sonnets together. Shakespeare is seeing himself fall for a woman who is unfeeling, aloof, and not particularly beautiful in the traditional sense. His own desires baffle him, and thus Sonnet 130 was born.

1 comment:

  1. First, thank you for the Hiddleston reading, I really enjoy hearing Shakespeare read by people that I am familiar with through other things. To be honest, I didn't think that Hiddleston's reading was without feeling, but that may have been influenced by the emotional images that were played with it.

    Also, I am intrigued by the idea that this sonnet was inspired by a sense of self-hate. Internal conflict is a powerful theme, one that I didn't associate with this poem at all. It just never occurred to me, but I think that is a very interesting lens to use on this sonnet. It would explain the negative portrayals of the "object" while supporting the positive claims made too.