Introduction is the last page for some reason. Complete analysis on select sonnets by notable poets. This was composed in 2008-2009, I'm sharing it for all who needs it :)
The SonnetsSir Philip Sidney In about 1582, Sidney composed a sonnet sequence called Astrophel and Stella which contained 108 sonnets. This series is an autobiographical story of the relationship between Astrophel and Stella, representing Sidney and his former lover Penelope Devereaux respectively. Their engagement didnt work out and the sonnets correspond to the unrequited love and how much he suffers from it. Sonnet 31 Adventures in English Literature, page 159 In the first quatrain, Astrophel observes how silently and with how a wan a face the moon is climbing the sky. He recognizes in its pale face the same lovesickness he himself is experiencing. In lines 3 and 4, he questions whether Cupids arrows have struck it even in a heavenly place. In the next quatrain, he concludes that that may be the source of the moons long-with-love-acquainted eyes, that it is lovesick (thou feelst a lovers case). He recognizes its languished grace the same as he recognizes it in himself. In the last quatrain, he asks the moon if women there were as proud as here they be, do they desire love yet scorn those that give them love, and do they call ungratefulness there a virtue. The connection between the moon and himself represents personification in which Sidney gives the moon human emotions. The moon can also be seen as an allusion to Diana, the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology. He speaks to it as if it were a human being with human qualities. Although Diana is a perpetual virgin unaffected by love, Astrophel comes to the conclusion that Cupids arrows were strong enough to make her love and she is therefore suffering from it. Sonnet 39 Adventures in English Literature, page 159 Astrophel appears to be suffering from his infatuation with Stella and therefore cannot sleep. The poem begins with him crying for sleep to come; he calls it the poor mans wealth, the prisoners release, begging it to release him from his suffering. In the second quatrain, he asks Sleep to alleviate his suffering and cease the civil war that is raging between his heart and his head. In the third quatrain, he says all he asks for are smooth pillows, sweetest bed, a chamber deaf to noise and blind to light. Finally, in the last couplet, he devises a way to make sleep come to him. He tells it that once he is asleep, Stella will appear in his dreams, therefore continuing his suffering.
Once again, Sidney is using a figure of speech to reference something to another. Here, he uses an apostrophe where his heart and his head are referenced to love and reason. Reason and love are personified as being in constant battle because of Stellas scorn. His head knows that his infatuation is foolish and futile while his heart is persistent and insistent. There is also irony because although he is begging sleep to relieve him of his suffering from Stella, an image of Stella will always be in his mind, whether he is awake or asleep.
Edmund Spenser Sonnet 75 Adventures of English Literature, page 156 In this sonnet, Spencer claims to impart immortality upon his beloved. The first two lines tell of how he wrote his loves name on the beach, but the waves washed it away. Lines 3 and 4 tell of how he attempted to rewrite it but again the waves erased it. This indicates the metaphor between his efforts (pains) being eaten (madehis prey). Likewise, the waves are seen as a symbol of time, a never ending cycle. In the second quatrain, his beloved speaks of his efforts as futile and indicates that like her name, she, too, will eventually be wiped away (For I myself shall like to this decay). From here, Spenser makes the allusion between this sonnet and Christianity, that mortality is an inevitable inheritance among all living things. Although he speaks of the unavoidability of death in the octet, he claims that he will be able to impart immortality among his beloved in the sestet. This is especially indicated in lines 11 and 12. Although he reassures her in lines 9 and 10 that she will not die the way her name was washed away, without a trace or implant in the world, her glorious name will be written in the heavens, signifying that heaven serves as the ultimate immortality. In the last couplet, Spencer tells her that their love will overshadow death, that they will live on in the afterlife (Our love shall live, and later life renew). Sonnet 79 Adventures of English Literature, page 157 In this sonnet, Spenser is speaking to a woman about what he believes is true beauty. He starts off the first two lines saying that the women men call beautiful know that they are beautiful too. In lines 3 and 4, he states that the truly beautiful women are the ones with a gentle wit and virtuous mind. In the second quatrain, he says that the women with only external beauty will eventually fade because of the effects of frail corruption, in which age will cause the outward beauty to turn to naught and lose that glorious hue. Spenser therefore informs the
woman that true beauty is one that does not fade, unlike external beauty, because it is the person thats inside that matter. In the final quatrain, according to Spenser, the reason why women possess true beauty is because God created her, making her divine and born of heavenly seed. This is where perfect beauty did at first proceed because she is derived from that fair Spirit. Furthermore there is a consonance of t and d sounds that give a harsh tone especially in the three quatrains. In line 6, Shall turn to naught has a harsh t sound which indicates Spencers disapproval of women with only external beauty. The d sounds in the final quatrain emphasize Spencers reason for why internal beauty is more important, especially in line 12, And perfect beauty did at first proceed. In the last couplet, there is a change in tone. The t and d sounds disappear with r sounds replacing them. The r sounds contribute to a softer tone in contrast to the lines before which had a harsher tone. The r sounds in fair, flowers, and fade create a more soothing attitude in Spencers voice. This can be referenced to Spencers strong belief in God and it is illustrated through a more consolatory approach.
William Shakespeare In 1609, Shakespeare published 154 sonnets in the same story structure as Sidneys Astrophel and Stella. In contrast, Shakespeares sonnets are much more mysterious, addressing three different people, one a young man with great beauty and promise, another a rival poet, and the other a lady with dark hair, eyes, and complexion. To add drama, both the speaker and young man seem to be romantically linked to the lady. In relation to meaning, Shakespeare explores the themes and questions of time and death, beauty and moral integrity, love, and poetry. Sonnet 18 Adventures in English Literature, page 166 In the first quatrain, the speaker attempts to compare the young mans beauty to a summers day but decides that there is no comparison, for the young mans beauty is more lovely and more temperate. This is also because the summer is fleeting and inconsistent, especially in lines 3 and 4. He then goes on to describe the imperfections of summer saying that it is too hot and that his gold complexion is often dimmed by passing clouds. The speaker suggests that the summer brings great disappointment through these lines in contrast with the youth, whose eternal summer shall not fade. The speaker also seems to want to immortalize the youth. He doesnt want his beauty to fade even though death is inevitable as explicitly stated in line 7. The third quatrain illustrates the speakers claim that the young man will not lose possession of that fair thou owest and nor
shall death brag thou wanderst in his shade, meaning that death will not affect his beauty. His reason is found in line 12, where he plans to capture the youths beauty in his verse (eternal lines), which he believes will outlast the ravages of time. The couplet further exemplifies his reasoning when he says so long lives this (this sonnet) will the young mans beauty live forever (and this gives life to thee). Sonnet 29 Adventures in English Literature, page 167 In this sonnet, the speaker laments on his misfortunes and his outcast state (lines 1 and 2). He says he is abandoned by everyone and weeps to the deaf heaven. The source for his depression results from his separation from the young man, who is with friends possessed. The second half of the second quatrain indicates that the speaker wishes he had those qualities and wealth that the youth and his friends posses so that he, too, can be with them. In lines 9 through 12, however, his attitude begins to change to a more optimistic state when he recalls his friendship with the youth (Haply I think on thee). He establishes a metaphor comparing his happiness of these memories to a lark at break of day arising/From sullen earth, sings hymns at Heavens gate. The last couplet concludes his attitude to the separation: his memories of the youths love and friendship keep him moving forward. Sonnet 30 Adventures in English Literature, page 167 The speaker feels a growing attachment to the young man and the reader now realizes that the speaker cannot function without him. The sonnet begins with the speaker drifting off into remembrance of things past. The reader learns that these are painful memories with the death of his friends and former love affairs that have ended. He has already lamented on these memories yet he is lamenting again as though he has never had before. The concluding couplet brings the appearance of the young man who serves as a cure for his grievances (But if the while I think on thee, dear friend/All losses are restored and sorrows end). Shakespeare conveys the beauty of the speakers lamentation through great use of alliteration such as sessions of sweet silent thought, with old woes new my dear times waste, and then I can grieve at grievances forgone. In addition, he also uses assonance with the ending -nce, e