Sonnets Essay, Research Paper

Sonnets: An Insight into Shakespeare’s Mind?

During Elizabethan times, 1550-1625, a great writer’s explosive way of writing brought forth-new life to poetry. This outstanding poet, author and playwright, was William Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote fourteen-line poems called sonnets. Although Shakespeare is known for his masterpiece plays, his sonnets are also worthy of this credit. These autobiographical sonnets are tales of love, deception, and betrayal. Although it is presumable that Shakespeare did write these sonnets about his own life, some experts are still puzzled by the possibilities. It seems as though Shakespeare poured his whole self into the sonnets. However, the idea of the sonnets being fictional comes few and far between. If one man can so exquisitely write fictional stories about love and still include a controversial issue in them, then where do we draw the line between fact and fiction? On account of much research, I have found that the belief of the majority of experts I reviewed was that the sonnets are most likely to be autobiographical. Some evidence shows this theory may be true. Therefore, Shakespeare, according to many experts, used his real life affair with a man and a woman in his sonnets. His recreations of pain, joy, and sorrow help to add to the drama of the sonnets. Also, Shakespeare has shown the possibility of writing to a distinct person. Many experts ponder the question of whom. Although they have narrowed down the group of possible candidate many agree on one specific in each category.

As the Black Death was making its voyage from Sicily to conquer the European countries, an eager Shakespeare might have been contemplating whether or not to write a comedy or a drama. However, as soon as the plague did reach Europe, theaters closed and there was nowhere for Shakespeare?s plays to be performed. This posed a problem for the young author. Shakespeare had to somehow exert his ability to another area of writing. What better way to fulfill his urge than to write sonnets? The sonnet was being used as a common way for expressing one’s love for another. Shakespeare thought of this common way of writing as an outlet to do just what everyone else was doing. He would express his innermost thoughts and feelings to the people he loved.

The sonnet is a fourteen line lyrical poem written in iambic pentameter, a meter in which five accents are placed on the stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. English poets were eager to find some way to make their sonnet better so “when sixteenth century English poets discovered the Italian sonnet, they decided to alter the rhyme scheme to a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g” (Rozakis 354). Shakespeare used this discovered form in his sonnets. The concluding lines of the poem resolve the problem discussed in the above twelve lines of the sonnet. After Shakespeare?s death the English sonnet that he so profoundly popularized was renamed the Shakespearean Sonnet (Rozakis355).

After researching the grouping of the sonnets there is still much controversy about Thomas Thorpe’s arrangement. Many of the experts doubt the accuracy of the order in which they are found today. The sonnets are currently found in an order called Thorpe Quarto. This order seems practical and does not pose any unanswered questions. ?Thorpe?s arrangement groups the Sonnets by whom he is supposedly writing to. Then they are numbered for practicality since no titles were provided?(Wilson). However, researchers find that this arrangement was just a guess on Thorpe’s part and was not grouped by the poet himself. Nevertheless, when the sonnets are re-arranged they have no order or sense to them. Thorpe’s arrangement also gave experts the ability to look at the sonnets in a way in which you could take the individuals addressed and say that there are two distinct groups.

The first group of sonnets, which run from sonnets one to one hundred twenty six, address two people of the male gender. Sonnets one hundred twenty seven to one hundred fifty six have a distinct person as to whom he is speaking, he addresses a “dark lady” who is supposedly seductive and sexy (”The Sonnets”1). This group of sonnets has been the contradicting side of many experts’ theories. Sonnets one hundred fifty three and one hundred and fifty four are unusually unrelated to the two groupings. They relate to a Greek poem about Cupid and his torch (”The Sonnets”1). The first group then can be split into two smaller sub-groups. Sonnets one to seventeen tell how Shakespeare wants to marry and have children (”The Sonnets”1). In addition to the sonnets about a young man, sonnets seventy-eight to eighty-six are about a “Rival Poet, ” who experts say “temporarily wins the favor and presumably, patronage, of the friend? (”The Sonnets”1).

The First Group is entitled by Thomas Thorpe is “The Friend,”. Shakespeare was said to have a love for the boy written about. This statement brings up the question of homosexuality or bisexuality on the part of William Shakespeare. On the contrary, ?Shakespeare also said that his love for the boy was purely spiritual?? (Wilson). Shakespeare says in his sonnets that he “wants to marry and have children of his own, but only with a woman” (Martin). The controversial identity of Shakespeare’s male lover has perplexed many experts. Yet, written on the inside cover of the 1609 edition of the sonnets is the following dedication, “To The Onlie Begetter Of These Insving Sonnets Mr. W.H. All Happinesse And That Eternitie Promised By Our Ever-Living Poet Wisheth The Well- Wishing Adventurer In Setting Forth” (Wilson). Mr. W.H brings the idea of a man with the initials W.H., such as William Herbert. (”The Sonnets” 2). William Herbert was the Third Earl of Pembroke. His candidacy seems most appropriate because of his thoughts on marriage. However Herbert was only thirteen in 1593, the year that many scholars would date the sonnets. (”The Sonnets” 2). This age difference suggests that his being the object of Shakespeare’s spiritual love would be simply ridiculous (Martin). Because of this factor the reversal of the initials was brought to mind. Perhaps Shakespeare did not want readers to know the identity of his male friend. This could be true, however, scholars investigated the possibilities and one name came up in many instances. Henry Wriothesley was The Earl of Southampton. He being twenty in 1593 further supported the theory of the reversal of the initials. This is the basis of many experts’ theoretical views on his sexuality. Was Shakespeare in love with this boy or was his “spiritual love” actually what it meant ? spiritual.

Shakespeare also wrote in the sonnets about yet another man. This man was said to be ma man of good stature. “?The so-called ‘Rival Poet’ who appears importantly in Sonnets seventy-eight to eighty-six,” was said to have stolen the young man away from Shakespeare. The candidacy for this character runs with an outstanding agreement upon a George Chapman, who was never the friend of Wriothesley or Herbert. This posed questions of the relation of the “Rival Poet” to the young man. Shakespeare perceived the rival poet to be learned, possibly a university graduate. Shakespeare thought of this as a threat and presumably turned out as one (Wilson).

The Dark Lady is the second grouping of the sonnets. The Dark Lady series begins with Sonnet number one hundred twenty seven and addresses a distinct character. This “Dark Lady” is presumably beautiful and has dark features. She has dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. This may possibly be because of their deep sexual love. His thought about the woman were said to be sexual because he believed that, “a man’s sexual parts belonged only to a woman,”(Wilson). The spiritual sonnets about his lover twist to a sexy, tempestuous tales of paradoxical love (”The Sonnets”4). Shakespeare did not use direct sexual statements in his sonnets he concealed them with puns and sexual allusions (”The Sonnets”4). The numerous candidates for this role have left many scholars in a puzzling disposition about the ongoing names have been narrowed down to a bantam amount. Mary Fittton, Emilia Lanier, Lucy Morgan, Penelope Rich, and William Davenant’s mother are the most qualified people in the category. Now much evidence is provided on this subject area but the women have fit Shakespeare’s detailed descriptions of her. However, Many scholars dispute the accuracy of the names.

In conclusion, it is my belief that the sonnets are arranged in a way that addresses particular people and that the Sonnets reflect his true life and are possibly autobiographical. Although the opinions of experts and scholars are varied the researching that I have done has given me the ability to make the appropriation that my statement is true. Shakespeare’s self image is often doubted and yet his character as an author is not. There has to be some basis of this opinion. The Sonnets provide this foundation for thought. “Wordsworth believed that Shakespeare unlocked his heart in the Sonnets,”(”The Sonnets”1) If this quote proves true then all the more Shakespeare he!




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