Daniel wrote a conventional love sonnet using the traditional Petrarchan style of putting the idea of love, or the mistress, on a pedestal. Shakespeare turned these ideas on their heads by portraying a mistress who was by no means special and most certainly unappealing. In comparing Daniel’s “Sonnet 6” and Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130,” I have come to the conclusion that Daniel’ s and Shakespeare’s ideas of the perfect lady and of true life on the most part differed.
During Daniel’s time there was a traditional way of writing love poems. Many of these poems talked of an unattainable woman whose love and perfection was so great she could only be considered to be divine. This is exactly what Daniel did. He wrote of an idea of what the perfect love would be using metaphors.
Daniel uses metaphors that related to something of great power or energy, such as the sun, writing “although her eyes are sunny.” Daniel uses the sun to compliment the mystical sense of his mistress. When Daniel talks of the eyes, he is explaining the power that can be seen in her eyes. This of course is not a realistic portrayal of a woman, but rather an idea of the kind of love that is so powerful, so heavenly that it is unattainable. Daniel tries to prove that his mistress has a love so powerful and deep that it can only be an idea. When many people think of an idea of love that is perfect, many would say that women of purity and beauty would be the perfect woman. Daniel states this thought when he says “Chastity and Beauty, which were deadly foes.” Here Daniel says that his mistress is pure, innocent, and beautiful. He is asking the reader to find a woman that perfect. There also seems to be reference to the divine in this line. Daniel is possibly comparing his mistress to the Virgin Mary. This would be the ultimate example of divinity. He is speaking of someone that is worthy enough and pure enough to have God’s only child and being pure. To Daniel this is what kind of love and qualities his mistress has and this can only truly be an idea. In contrast, Shakespeare has his own way of writing this image.
Shakespeare chooses an unconventional form of love poetry. The form he uses almost mocks the traditional form of love poetry that Daniel writes about. Shakespeare believes that true love is not an idea. He believes it is a real woman with all of her flaws. This woman is not considered unattainable or divine, but rather she is mortal. To him this is the idea of true love.
Shakespeare tried a much different approach to explaining what his idea of the perfect love would be.
Shakespeare uses the sun to describe his mistress as being mortal. Shakespeare states this at the beginning of his poem when he says, ” My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” From the beginning Shakespeare speaks of a woman that does not seem to have unearthly power and an unattainable love, but rather he is saying she is simple and true. There is nothing special about this woman. This is vastly different from the way Daniel portrays his mistress as having divine qualities.
Daniel’s visual image of his lady, like many poets of the time, is trying to install a vision of a woman that is divine and perfect. Daniel expresses this when he says, “Sacred on Earth, designated a Saint above.” Daniel is saying that although she is on earth she has heavenly qualities, much like that of a saint. If his mistress were anywhere other than on Earth she would undoubtedly be considered a goddess or a saint. Throughout his poem in explaining his mistress, Daniel speaks of his mistress’s perfection. She is worthy of the title “Saint” and anyone who comes into contact with her will undoubtably think the same. Shakespeare himself also establishes a visual image of his women.
Shakespeare description of a woman is the opposite of Daniel. Shakespeare’s uses metaphors that conjure images of a very unappealing woman. Shakespeare uses the fact that she is unappealing to express his love for her. This is ironic because Shakespeare is saying that his love is as true as all the other conventional poems that fail in their comparisons. This is Shakespeare’s way of explaining that true love comes from inside a person.
Shakespeare says the opposite of Daniel and by no means wants to put a false identity on his mistress. Shakespeare emphasizes how simple his lady is. Shakespeare speaks of this simplicity when he says, ” I grant I never saw a goddess go.” In this line Shakespeare seems to be taking his lady off the pedestal that Daniel puts his mistress on. This vision of a mistress being a goddess almost seems to amuse Shakespeare. Shakespeare knows that a man cannot truly love an idea. Though that man may want to, he is faking his love and this can not be the true love that he has for his woman. The couplets of both writers vary greatly also.
Daniel writes of a lady that he could possibly come into brief contact with. Daniel may have not even have spoke to her, but the brief contact with her was enough to inspire an image of someone so perfect that it could only be true love. Daniel also suggests that this woman he writes about is unattainable and this saddens him. This brief contact must have impressed him so much that he saw everything he ever wanted in a woman, but he left it as an idea, or a vision. In the ending couplet he speaks of this when he says, ” Oh had she not been fair and thus unkind, My Muse had slept and none had known my mind.” Daniel is thanking this woman for giving him the inspiration to write this poem. He is saddened to not be able to attain her but he knows that if he were to have more than simply brief contact with her it will spoil his idea and vision of what the perfect love would be to him.
In the couplet of Shakespeare sonnet he seems to be saying, “here I am and this is my woman, she is ugly and imperfect by my love for here is as true as any.” Shakespeare is saying that he does not need to falsely compare his mistress to that of a goddess because he loves her for who she is. Not an idea, but a real person.
In his couplet Shakespeare is saying that a false comparison is not needed to describe a woman. He writes, “and yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare as any she belied with false compare.” This is where Shakespeare comes out and says that his woman, is not perfect but she is beautiful to him and there is no truer love than Shakespeare’s for his woman. Shakespeare is saying how rare his love is because he accepts his woman for who she is. Not a perfect woman. Daniel portrays his mistress as unattainable and immortal. Shakespeare on the other hand will challenge anyone who thinks through false compare that their love is truer than his. Shakespeare does not need to falsely compare his woman to someone divine. He expresses his lady as being simple and able to accept his true love.
With his use of traditional Petrarchan writing, Daniel paints a perfect idea of a woman, one who is immortal and unattainable. Shakespeare, on the other hand mocks this style of writing and creates a vision of a more human woman who has flaws and is anything but perfect. In conclusion, these two writers have different views on what true love is, and the kind of woman they admire. Neither way is wrong, but are simply two contrasting ways of expressing how a man looks at a woman.
(Teacher’s Handout for Daniel’s Sonnet 6)