Makea comparison between two sonnets. Both William Shakespeare and Sir PhillipSidney’s sonnets explore the ideas of love and natural imagery. However thereare clear differences between their work too; Sidney steps out of theboundaries of typical meters in sonnets while Shakespeare’s subjects ofinterest, or muses, are not always identified as the typical female loveinterest. The main theme of Sidney’s ‘Astrophiland Stella’ is unequivocally that of love.
The speaker states that he is’loving in truth’ and wanted to demonstrate the sincerity or ‘truth’ of thislove through the writing of his Sonnet. Sidney’s exploration of the speaker’slove works synonymously with the topic of the speaker’s struggle as a writer. The speaker hopes that his love interest may’take some pleasure of my pain’- with pain possibly having a dual meaning. Thespeaker is writing in the hopes that his lover will pity him, the pain ofunrequited love and the hardships of expressing his emotions in words. The speakerstudies ‘inventions fine’ in order to paint the ‘blackest face of woe’ so thathe can show his need for inspiration to write in order to win over his lover.
Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 65’ also (albeit less obviously) studies the theme oflove but rather the fragility of it and the notion of mortality. The speakerexpresses the idea that nothing can withstand the effects of time, not even thestrongest of materials ‘since brass, nor stone…but sad mortality o’er swaystheir power.’ The speaker then states his hopes that the writing of sonnets ‘inblack ink’ will immortalise the expression of his love- ‘my love may stillshine bright’ possibly suggesting that the idea that love can preserve one’syouth and that it is the only thing that may withstand the eventualdestructions of time. Shakespeare uses the speaker of the sonnet to explore thediverse effects of love while Sidney’s speaker discusses love in a moreegocentric way.Sidney’s sonnetswere written before the premise of a typical English or Shakespearean sonnetand therefore follow an Italian form with some variations. Sidney’s use of thehexameter in ‘Astrophil and Stella’ and the use of commas or colons at the endof each phrase, ‘I have my death wound; fly!’, creates adisjointed meter with a lack of fluidity. This seems to demonstrate thespeaker’s anguish and self-conflict for not being able to write the sonnet thatwill express his love aptly.
Conversely,Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 65’ is written in iambic pentameter and uses the typicalrhyme scheme. The traditional meter and features of assonance, ‘hand can’,create a consistent and powerful rhythm that consolidates the underlyingmessage of life being an impenetrable force that can be beaten by no strength.This is further supported by the final rhyming couplet ‘might…bright’ thatreinforces Shakespeare’s exploration of the conflict of powers between life andlove. These two sonnetsdemonstrate to a reader how similar ideas about the nature of love can be sodiversely expressed while still following the strict guidelines expected.
IsSatan properly described as a hero? Consider what principles orcharacteristics might make us read Satan as a hero. Satan in is a literary character with atarnished reputation and this can be said in Milton’s epic Paradise Lost or perhaps he is a tragic protagonist with a fatalflaw that causes his own abnegation. However, readers may identify with theinfluential characteristics of Milton’s Satan thanks to Milton’s eloquent,elevated language and therefore read his character as a hero of this secularpoem. Satan’s name brings with it a tarnishedreputation, yet Milton’s use of language offers an alternative perspective tothis character.
Satan offers guidance to the other angels, telling them, ‘Herewe may reign secure, and in my choice’. This speech in Book I characterisesSatan with admirable power and an eloquence that is undeniably heroic,possessing a ‘free will and power to stand”. His self-assurance is reflectedthrough the use of personal pronouns and demonstrates to the reader he has aheroic sense of pride that is further supported by him declaring it is ‘Betterto reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.’ Satan’s charactercould also be classed as a hero because he is an accessible figure whodemonstrates human traits. ‘Since love or hate, / To me alike, it deals eternalwoe’, Milton has used the dichotomy here in order for Satan to express hisinner conflict and anguish, admitting that his desire for power led to his owndemise. To add, Milton’s God in Paradise Lost speaks scornfully with a bluntsimple rhythm ‘Whose fault? / Whose but his own? Ingrate!’ which demonstrateshis unattainable power whereas Milton has crafted a self-aware character withinSatan with the ability to admit his own flaws in surprising contrast toMilton’s God, who is a vengeful character that lacks such an independence ofmind and free will. Havingdiscussed Satan’s attributes such as pride or anguish, one may not view him asthe protagonist or hero of the poem but rather comparable to a character suchas Macbeth. Satan’s ‘unconquerable will’ acts synonymously with Macbeth’s’vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself’ hence suggesting that Satan’s pridecauses his downfall, fitting in with the archetype of a tragic hero just asMacbeth does.
A tragic hero also holds aspecific characteristic of a flaw that ultimately leads to one’s own failure.Milton uses the metaphor to discuss Satan’s flaw of being inherentlymalevolent, ‘Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell’, a flaw that torments himand threatens to ‘devour’ him. Satan’s inner anguish is expressed though hisspeeches yet his actions juxtapose this and allows readers to follow Satan’s ever-deepeningfall into tragedy.
Dueto Satan’s consistent acts of evil within ParadiseLost, it cannot be said that he is the hero of the epic poem, but couldrather be viewed as a Tragic or Byronic hero. Satan is a character with anambition (such as ‘his confidence to equal God in power’) and admirable charm;these are traits that deem Satan a venerable character yet ultimately lead tohis downward spiral into failure. Taking the descriptions at the start of the poem of Leander (lines51-90), consider which senses Marlowe evokes in his descriptions of him. Youshould provide textual evidence for your views.Critics have saidthat Marlowe’s epyllion, Hero and Leander,is an epic poem of controversy, only permitted due to this poem paying homageto Marlowe’s narrative of the Ovidian literature, Heroides.
Marlowe uses physical senses to touch on the homoeroticand blur typical gender boundaries through sensually heightened and elaboratelanguage. Primarily,Marlowe’s draws on physical senses, using the depiction at the threshold of thepoem to establish Leander as a sensual character. The description of Leander isinitiated with the implication that Leander has had other lovers, ‘I could tellye’, then leading on to physically explore Leander’s ‘straight’ body, pondering’how smooth his breast was, how white his belly’ instantly establishing hispower over Hero. Marlowe evokes the sense or desire to touch and impliesLeander is an experienced lover compared to the virgin Hero, giving him animmediate dominance in their relationship. The sense of touch is evoked to drawin on this dominance, discussing the fact that ‘immortal fingers didimprint…with many a curious dint’ on his back. Marlowe’s use of touch lendsLeander some desirability that is comparable to that of Greek Gods and alongwith the use of monosyllabic, masculine rhymes ‘imprint’ and dint’ creates apowerful tone that coincides with the running themes of the tensions betweenHero and Leander and their battle for sexual authority. The consistent struggle for power isemphasised through this evocation of the senses and the use of rhyme creates anupbeat town fitting in with the construction of an epic poem. Alternatively one may argue thatMarlowe evokes the sense of touch in the characterisation of Leander as a wayto explore and push the boundaries of constructed gender.
Marlowe uses thesense of sight and describes Leander in a feminine manner, being ‘beautiful andyoung’ and then directly compares him to a woman stating that ‘some swore he wasa maid in man’s attire’; this determines Leander as an androgynous character inthe poem instantaneously. Marlowe’s feminine portrayal of Leander sets up forhumour within the poem further on, including the gender confusion betweenNeptune and Leander “I am no woman, I”. Marlowe’s use of the senses draws backon Leander’s desirability but in a more feminine way.
Leander is ‘deliciousmeat to taste’ and fixates the reader’s gaze on his male physique, yet makes itincongruent by skewing the experience with a female presentation. Therefore,humour is created through the obscure notion of presenting a male figure as nomore than a body, focussing on ‘those orient cheeks and lips’. Gender roles aredeconstructed and reversed, making Leander simply an object of desire thusremoving his suggested supremacy.
We can see that the characterisation ofLeander evokes physical senses, alluring desire and exploring gender boundariesin order to question the implied constructed gender roles a reader maytypically expect. Furthermore, the heightened sexual language follows thestandards of an epic poem to create an exciting tone and pay homage to Ovid’sclassic original story. What constitutes identity (or identities)in Twelfth Night? Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is renowned for its comedy, historically known as afestive play where chaos was expected to ensue. Shakespeare plays on the confusion of identities to emphasise thecomedic value of the play, subverting our expectations of identities includinggender or social. Ahuge aspect of the play focuses on Viola’s identity crisis and the conflictbetween her true self and her other identity, the ‘male’ Cesario.
Viola mustcreate a new identity in order for her survival after losing her brother in ashipwreck; she says ‘conceal me what I am…for such disguise as haply shallbecome the form of my intent’. One may interpret from this that a woman wasdeemed not to have an identity without a man, in this situation Viola having noidentity without her brother, thus having to create a new one. Shakespearecrosses the boundaries of deception and plays with the boundaries of what maybe considered typically male or female. Viola, acting as Cesario, expresses toOrsino ‘I am all the daughters of my father’s house/ And all the brothers too’.
While this confusion may have caused comedic effect as the audience would havewatched a male actor, dressed as a female character (Viola) then dressed againas a male (Cesario), Shakespeare here also begs the question of genderidentity. It may be merely a construction or a learned idea rather than beingpinned to simple physical traits. Viola realises her disguise ‘is too hard aknot for me t’untie’ as Cesario becomes ensnared in a complicated romanticrelationship with Olivia, further inferring that identity is constituted bywhomever and is not bound to a set of rules.
Shakespeare’scharacter Feste is depicted as the fool of the play, yet his dialogue is aclever commentary on the idea of social identity being no more than pretence. Feste’suse of intelligent language reveals him as more than a fool; he is similar to asagacious observer, who takes advantage of his comic role and having no bias tomake social commentary. Feste uses the aphorism ‘Better a witty fool than foolish wit’. Here it is suggested that it isbetter to be of a lower social standing and self-aware rather than to put up afront in order to elevate one’s social identity.
Shakespeare is making acomment on the fact that the contemporary audience may have believed socialidentity relied on one’s social position and class power. This can behighlighted through comparing Feste with Malvolio. While Malvolio appears moreintelligent and attempts to rise in social class to become more than a stewardto Olivia, his attempt to form an exclusive social identity results in himactually being made a fool, just as Feste aptly suggests.
Inthe points that have been made, a contradiction is clearly raised thathighlights how some identities may be manipulated while others cannot be forcedwithout repercussion, just as Feste declares ‘some have greatness thrust uponthem’. DiscussBlake’s treatment of religious belief in exploring the relationship between Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience,paying attention to both texts and illuminations together.