William Shakespeare entertains multiple themes throughout his sonnet collection and portays an overarching theme of love. Sir Philip Sydney’s difficulties with love are shown in his collection of sonnets “Astrophil and Stella”. Both poets discuss the complications with love and the desire it creates. For example, in sonnet 1 Sydney has trouble conveying his love but hopes that through these sonnets she (Stella) will understand. Shakespeare’s sonnet 129 as well as Sydney sonnet 109 both mention the reason for their hardships with love: what is fueling their desire.
Both are struggling with lust but use different tones, ditcions and reasonings to arrive at the same point. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129 is grouped with poems known as the “dark” woman sonnets. This set of poems are on the darker side of Shakepeares classic love sonnets. Love is overbearing and causes the speaker to do things he normally wouldn’t. He claims that anticipation of sex creates erratic human behavior. Shakespeare uses graphic imagery, “murderous, bloody, full of blame” to illustrate his frustration towards the situation (3). He blames his sexual desires and claims that they are driving him to insanity (“make….taker mad” (8)).
To him, lust is a sin and is the root of peoples pain. Throughout the poem the order of words tends to be reversed and repeated (“mad”, “past reason”) to deepen the impression of conflict, as in line 2: “lust in action; and till action, lust. ” Despite intuition he is bound by passion and questions why he should “purs[ue]” what he knows to be worthless (“swallow’d bait”). The poem explains that sex is blissful while your’re doing it and, once you’re done, a true sorrow that it ever happened A bliss in proof,– and prov’d, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream:…(11-12). Here he embelishes the notion that people will go to absurd lengths in the pursuit of sex but end up hating themselves for it afterwards. Sydney’s Sonnet 109 immediately identifies ‘desire’ as the antagonist of the poet. In the first line he refers to love as a trap (“snare”) for the ignorant to fall for. But Sydney has already fallen into this “love trap” and is referring to himself as the “fool” to do so. Syndey in the first few lines considers himself foolish for feeling this desire.
He claims that desire leads people to act stupidly: “With scattered thought” and “causeless care”, that while trying to accomplish a foolish task he was wasting his time. All his hard work was for nothing, consuming his rationality. Sydney and Shakespeare blame themselves for their craving of love, desire. The speaker in sonnet 129 can’t help his appeal to this “dark” woman he refers. He knows it is painful to let desire go. He understands the self-hating conclusion to his lust but can’t help his actions: “Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream”(12).
While Shakespeare anticipates sex, it seems like joy; afterward, a bad dream. Blaming his sexual attraction to others as a culpit for personal agony. Sydney describes the same struggles in his sonnet 109. To Sydney the process of falling in love is nothing but torture. His “mangled mind” knows it worthless to feel this way and, similar to Shakespeare, doesn’t “know how to kill desire”(14). Both speakers convey an ambivalent tone towards desire. In line 5 Sydney has given into desire but in line 6 knows of its uselessness “Desire! Desire! I have too dearly brought / worthelesse ware”.
Similarly, in the couplet at the end of Sonnet 129 Shakespeare writes “All this the world well knows” to avoid the heavenly experience caused by desire because it “leads men to this hell” (13-14). The authors identify what the outcome of their desires will be but allow it to happen anyways. Desire turns the speakers mad. In Shakespeare’s case the desire for sex is “on purpose laid to make the taker mad”(8); He has experienced all the stages of lust and each time it has made him crazy. As for Sydney, the reference to “mangled mind” explains that he is on his way to insanity.
He paid for his desire by driving “[him]self” crazy. Sydney and Shakespeare seem to not know what to do. They are confused with the aching for love they possess. And it drives the speakers, whether it be Shakespeare or Sydney, to insanity. Both poets as well express the idea elsewhere that the “dark” women and “Stella” are superior to them. They believe that they are at fault for this desire they occupy. In Sonnet 129 the poets endeavors convince him that the “dark” lady is better than he knows her to be. Similarily, Sydney makes it evident that this desire is a flaw in himself and not in the desired.
In Sonnet 129 Shakespeare makes it vague to whether or not he is the speaker. Sydney seems to make it more evident by using point of view such as “I have”. Under the rubric of a single theme the reader notices as many similarites as differences. Shakespeare uses very different syntax than Sydney to express the same idea. First of all, Sonnet 129 concerns physical appetites that are blamed for fueling sexual desires. “Is lust in action; and till action, lust”(2). Sydneys sonnet 109 blames his emotional feelings his mind can’t help but feel “Within my self to seek my only hire” (13).
Shakespeare uses mutiple juxtapositions such as “before”/ “behind” and “heavan”/ “hell”. The juxtapositions allowed Shakespeare to convey both sides of his suffers. The vulgar tone in sonnet 129 contributes to the speakers hatred for physical desires. That it makes people “savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;”(4). Shakespeare explains exactly what will happen when one undergoes these sexual yearnings “Past reason hunted; and no sooner had, / Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait”(6-7) allowing no room for interpretation. Sydney, on the other hand, exlpains the pain he feels, but is not exact what will happen subsequently.
He recognizes the conclusion but doesn’t know what it will fell like. Sydney understands that his desire will be worthless. Sonnet 129’s speaker has experienced desires worthlessness. He asserts that everyone knows and will finish as he did, in agony and pain: “All this the world well knows” (13). The list’s Shakespeares writes helps explain his frustration with sex and the “dark” lady. List’s solify details to pas experiences. It gives the reader more evidence to the speakers opinion. Whereas, Syndey effectivley emphasizes his point through punction and repition “Desire! , Desire! ”(5). Convincing the reader of Sydneys troubles.
Sydney and Shakespeare suggest that love drives them out of control but have their own view on the intensity of the stress. Some people would consider that these feelings are more than standard. Not that they are exaggerating feelings in the sonnets but drive themselves to an extreme stage of loathing. Sydney expresses a lyrical tone compared to Shakespeares disdainful tone. Syndey voices his inner feelings and reads as though he has thought a lot about his struggles. In line 8 he writes “Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare”, and explains that his mind should concentrate on more important things than desire.
The use of “my mind” suggests that Sydney is trying to convince himself to focus on more important things. This plays in directly with his lyrical tone. Shakespeare, on the other hand, is more disdainful in his writing, “Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;”(10) and scornful towards his involvements with desire. In the end, Shakespeare in sonnet 129 and Sydney in sonnet 109 both write about their struggles with lust. Syndey composes his feelings throughout sonnet 109 while Shakespeare makes it evident of his scornful position towards desire itself.
Courtney from Study Moose
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