Friday, May 7, 2021

Understanding the Many Different Interpretations to Two Sonnet.

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In trying to get to the root Shakespeare's sonnets, one literally must go on a ceaseless scavenger hunt, from book to book, article to article and scholar to scholar. Perhaps we the modern critic can be blamed for going way out on limbs making speculations in what others have classified as "over analyzing". Although this is not necessarily the case, one can't help but be confused when each writer takes you on a detour from the one idea unto another. And so this scavenger hunt seems to get no answers as many of the ideas are in fact credible. And so perhaps the best thing to do must be to understand just more than one perspective to be able to come up with ones own. And so the sonnets go from real to deliberately mocking, or just literary fun.

Throughout the 16th century, the Petrarchian sonnet style became the backbone and structure rigorously followed by all British sonneteers. However although this literary form of excess flattery and hyperbole reached its hay-day in the 16th century, it was also a trend that began to wear off by the end of the same century. Essentially, the Petrarchian sonnet is composed "of 1) comparison by simile and or metaphor ) hierarchizing, and ) valuing by a standard."(Vendler, 557), all of whom heterogeneously fuse together to form the Blazon.

The popularity of the blazon during the 16th Century can be credited to have brought an extension of the Medieval styles of courtly love into the Renaissance. The blazon is in essence an excess form of flattery used in wooing the virtuous and unattainable woman, by mode of the sonnet form. From this style a myriad of conventions were formed, that had become all too common and for some even rather boring. The woman, whose eyes went far beyond the luster of the sun, and whose cheeks captured the rosy pigment and soft texture of a single rose petal. This mode of adulating the woman had begun to seem repetitive, foolish, asinine and unreal. It wasn't long till this style would be demoted, and so in writing as early as 150, the satirical Petrarchian sonnet/ anti blazon begins to emerge, amongst whose followers would be William Shakespeare.

There are those whom say that some of Shakespeare's Dark Lady Sonnets can be seen as a direct mockery on the style that has in modern day been termed the "Petrarchian" sonnet. Others claim that he may not have been altogether familiar with Petrarch's sonnets enough to have been able to form a collection of satires parodying him (Weiser, 140). And so it is believed that his sonnets became a mockery more so on the style itself and the literary clich that had been formed amongst his contemporaries. However some will go as far as to argue that no such form of mockery is being employed in the description of his mistress in such sonnets as in 10. While others will attack him for misogyny and even harassment (Burnham,4 ), some will go as far as to say that his approach was merely one aiming for a less floral, and made up sonnet, in attempts at creating something real. All arguments can be seen a feasible, each with an extensive amount of facts and speculations to back them up. But there is no concrete evidence to prove any of this true or untrue.

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However from whatever perspective we choose to view the sonnets, and from what ever speculation we choose to include in our interpretations, the fact remains that there are still many similarities between the Shakespearean and Petrarchian sonnet. Of course they are both sonnets and so they both adhere to the fourteen line rule, but there use of metaphor although used differently adheres to some of the same rules. In sonnet 10 his use is similar although it has achieved a different affect. There is the obvious comparison between the lady and an object which in a sense transcends her into a being of perfection and or a deity. Shakespeare does the same thing while in a sense bring the female figure down to earth. They both use the formula described above by Helen Vendler. However, although there is a likeness between the two it seems fitting to describe sonnet 10 within the context of all of the plausible situations described above.

Perhaps amongst the most popular speculation would be that Shakespeare was aware of the so called "Petrarchian" format; however that he chose to parody some of his contemporaries. If so "The Dark Lady" sonnets can be considered the perfect antiblazon. Sonnet 10 can be and has been seen as the most directly satirical sonnet in relation to the Petrarchian sonnet, mocking the most obvious forms of convention. However if we are to concentrate on a more direct form of mockery we can see the similarities existing between William Shakespeare's sonnet 10 and Thomas Watson's sonnet 7. Katherine Wilson points this out in pages 8-85 of her book Shakespeare's Sugared Sonnets. Line two in Shakespeare sonnet 10 one states "Coral is far more red than her lips' red;" which we can see as referring to the absence of color found in Watson's sonnet 7 line 11 "Her lips more red than any Corall stone." There are few other similarities, in which Shakespeare's lines to be an exact mockery on Watson's lines. Watson described his lover's cheeks as being lily-like as well as like roses, which in line 5 of Shakespeare sonnet appears as the opposite. However many of the lines which bare no correlation to Watson's sonnet's can be found in the Sonnet 48 of Barnabe Barnes in which he speaks of the female's "hairs no grace of golden wires want" and her eyes as the "heaven's bright sun." both lines of witch Shakespeare mocks in his poem (Wilson, 85).

Traces of these same conventions, (perfumed breath, a golden tressed beauty, with roses for cheeks) can be seen in many other writers of the time, among them Spencer. Even traces of Spencer and Sydney are said to be found in the poem, by those whom believe these sonnets to be made up. Shakespeare was not the first to speak of a dark woman. Sydney is said to have been amongst the first very popular sonneteers to compose a sonnet about a brown eyed beauty. And although the woman wasn't of dark complexion similar to Shakespeare's this is still from were this sense dark and morally dark woman, emerge in sonnets. Sidney develops several conceits on the color of Astrophil and Stella in sonnets 7 and .

However in Poem 11 Shakespeare still takes his poem yet again one step farther.

Her blackness here refers to the conventional tyranny of the loved on who enslaves and torments her lover by her beauty. "This is confirmed in 11, where the lady's eyes are said to have put on black in pity because they know that her heart torments the poet with disdain" (Wait, 114). However this is a play on the traditions of courtly loves. The very thought of the tyrannous lovely woman derives from the rules of courtly love courting. The woman's beauty is both internal and external and so in preserving her chastity and virtue, she must not give into her lover. This is true also in Spencer's Amoretti of whom Paul Innes also has makes the claim Shakespeare may have been in a overall borrowing if not entirely mocking Spencer. In a sense that can also be seen as plausible. In sonnet 11 Shakespeare tells her in a sense, why are you treating me so tyrannously you act as if you were beautiful or something, as if you had the right to do so. He can be seen in the above lines as making fun of his mistress, and yet he may just be poking fun at the rules that previous sonneteers had "over"-used.

Shakespeare once again can be seen as mocking his lover. The word groan in lines 5 and 10 have been understood to have double meanings. Although groan is initially thought of has having meant a groan of despair, cried out to his unattainable and beautiful tyrannous lover, when Shakespeare finally does groan in line 10 it can also be thought as a groan on her ugliness.

However if we are to take the mockery out of these sonnets and read them in the perspectives of both Helen Vendler and Kenneth Muir, both sonnet 10 and 11 begin to take on a new meaning. Sonnet 10 is still a mock blazon, however he is not necessarily saying anything negative about his lover, the word reek for in stance, Muir defends that fact that in the sixteenth century the word reek did not necessarily mean what we associated it with today, it merely meant a smell. In saying that his mistress eyes are nothing like the sun, he is not in a sense mocking her, they are dark and not bright, so is this necessarily insulting? In line 11, and 1 they defend that she is not necessarily less than a god, however deities are control-freak whom are not at all time accessible to the flesh, however in making her more earthy, he unlike the courtly lover can attain his woman. Perhaps this may not be thought of as a compliment, that's for sure but can we discredit the fact that they from this perspective they are not particularly disturbing either, they nearly seem to be turning the sonnet into something real.

In a reading of sonnet 11 by both Helen Vendler and Paul Innes they have found perhaps that same need to turn it into something real. Both have noted that in sonnet 11 "Shakespeare's language is legalistic, similar to the language of the court room, with words such as swear appearing twice in both lines 8 and , linking the second and third quatrains; false occurs in line ; witness' appears in line 11 and line 1 has the word judgments" (185, Innes). Here we can see the way her tyranny is taken a step further, now this love becomes in a sense legalistic, and the oaths become far more than compassion to idle object, but legal oaths. In paying close attention to this, one can see a more realistic approach at swearing, or begging to a lover, these oaths go beyond mere hyperbole in this sonnet and into something legally binding the speaker.

Lastly there are those who have tried to make historical sense out of Shakespeare's sonnets. Many scholars have rearranged the order of the sonnets to attempt to make sense out of the "love triangle." However amongst these dying scholars in search of the truth, on goes as far as accrediting himself with having found the infamous dark lady stating that perhaps a Mrs. Aemilia Layner may have been Shakespeare illustrious "dark lady", an argument which has been developed by A.L. Rowse as far back now as 178. He claims that the infamous dark lady was indeed an "olive-skinned, dark-dark haired, Italian Jew" (qtd. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies p77v7).

And so we can see the way just two sonnets can become a thing of thousands of debates and endless scrutiny. From every angle of the poetry different scholars find different things. And so who is to say which one is correct, which one to believe and follow or which one not to believe, when all the information out there for the readers is similar to reading the book of the book of the courtier is just throws you around from one direction to the next, never getting at any concrete answers.

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