Monday, September 12, 2016

Maddie's Informal Research for Sonnet 130 Analysis

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  • Felicia Steele's "Shakespeare's Sonnet 130" insists that one must go beyond the traditional readings of the poem in order to properly understand it. Most people read the poem as a systematic dismantling of traditional Petrarchan beauty, and a way to poke fun at traditional sonnets. Steele breaks down the grammar of the final couplet in order to suggest that the poem might not be entirely about the Dark Lady's beauty at all, but about her mind and way of speaking. The only compliment he offers in the first three quatrains is "I love to hear her speak", suggesting that perhaps he may focus on more than just her physical beauty. It had not occurred to me before I read this analysis that Shakespeare might be calling attention to something beyond her looks. I had noted that he does not mention anything about her intelligence, wit, or personality, but overlooked the line about loving to hear her speak. In a breakdown of the grammar of the final couplet, Steele attempts to prove that the lady belies others by speaking. While I do not entirely buy into this argument, it certainly lends a reading I hadn't considered before.
  • A writer named Fugu posted an analysis of Sonnet 130 on the blog uglypufferfish,com. He reads the sonnet as a defense of true love and an attack on the shallowness of Shakespeare's day. He suggests that Shakespeare is scolding other writers for holding women to impossible standards, and scorning them for not being truthful about their own loves. It is definitely true that no one could possibly be as beautiful as other sonnets describe. Poets certainly exaggerate the charms of their beloved. Fugu makes a good point that poets cannot possibly be truthful about their loves, and holding women to that kind of standard for beauty can do no one any good, because women will only feel bad about themselves and men will only be disappointed. Shakespeare's sonnet read this way is a refreshing dose of reality as well as a reminder that people don't have to be perfect to be worthy of love. It's a statement that one can love an imperfect person, which is a real relief because it allows ourselves to be imperfect as well and still believe that we are worthy of love.                     
  • Image result for couple eating burgers I feel that what Sonnet 130 is really about is true love found in ordinary places with ordinary people doing ordinary things. Stories and poems might make us think that love can be found only by dramatic adventures or heroic deeds, but Shakespeare entirely dismantles that notion with his sonnet. In insulting the looks of his love but asserting that he loves her anyway, Shakespeare pulls down the impossible beauty standards that people were held to and makes love something that imperfect people can participate in. This picture represents that view: two totally ordinary people doing ordinary things, but enjoying each other's company. They're both flawed, but that doesn't matter, because they accept that about each other and choose to be together anyway.
  • I asked my roommate Ashley what she thought of the sonnet, and her first opinion was that Shakespeare didn't know how to talk to women. She then concluded that Shakespeare was trying to say that we should look to more than outer beauty in a person, that other traits and qualities can make a person beautiful. This is something that I thought was interesting about this sonnet: Shakespeare doesn't tell us why he loves his subject, just that he does. It clearly isn't for her beauty, but he made the choice not to expand on her other admirable qualities. Perhaps he thought that doing so would distract from the message that he was trying to get across: as Ashley said, that beauty is more than skin deep, and a person who seems ugly at first sight can become physically more attractive through goodness and humor and wit.

1 comment:

  1. I thought your comment was interesting that this sonnet seems celebrate "true love, found in ordinary places, with people doing ordinary things." Sometimes poetry seems somewhat tiresome, as it routinely elevates subjects into an immortal realm, where the love spoken of is the love of Gods, but I think Shakespeare really does capture the "ordinary" in this sonnet!