The first sonnets were written by Francesco Petrarca, who traditionally wrote about admiration for an unattainable woman.
These poems were simple and described the physical appearance of a woman usually using similes. There were very few female poets around at this time to respond to this kind of poetry and it was not until the eighteen hundreds was there a real voice from female sonneteers. The women responding to Shakespearean poems were better educated and saw the world differently from the male poets before them.Therefore, it is difficult to say what the women were responding to, because they are not directly responding to these men.
Shakespeare’s poems were very artificial and he used the old ideas and modified their usage in the poem to show off. His sonnets were all about the woman’s physical appearance. However, Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in 1892, died in 1950 she was an American, and born in Maine, her poetry was different because in the early 1900’s there was a rejection of traditional poetry.She was renowned for the lack of structure in her poems, and had a wider experience of life, as she was a bohemian.
Millay’s poems were an expression of her feelings, she was not trying to impress anyone and she did not work for the money. However, Shakespeare relied on his poetry to be accepted by society for his income. Millay was an educated woman looking at the world through experienced eyes she was not to be charmed by the superficial sonnets of Shakespeare, as Shakespeare was writing for a completely different audience.It is evident that in Shakespeare’s ” Shall I compare thee…? he is trying to woo a certain women with wit and charm. Shakespeare is able to show his wit through contradicting the traditional way of comparing women to the beauty of nature.
Shakespeare suggests that she is superior to the typical comparisons of a summer’s day as she will “not fade”. This is taking the conventional Petrachan ideas about wooing and beauty and reversing them. Shakespeare using his wit and charm is flattering this woman by saying she is more overpowering than the beauty of a summers day, and she has the privilege of being immortalised with his words.
The first line makes the reader assume that it will be a typical sonnet singing the praises from afar of a goddess type women. However, the second line is quick to counteract that thought because he disputes it. Shakespeare uses the image of a sun, which is nearly always associated with great magnificence and splendour and highlights the few unpleasant points to show its imperfection, such as it being ” too hot. ” Whereas ” My mistress’ eyes” seems to have very little to do with wit and charm. It begins with a harsh insult, and regularly points out the lady’s imperfections.She has few physical attributes, and Shakespeare uses rhyme effectively to get his message across by putting ” dun” and ” sun” at the end a line they stay more easily in the reader’s mind.
It seems for the first two quatrains that he really has a great dislike for her, and therefore is very comic. These rather cruel remarks are very witty yet come as a shock as people have come to expect a particular theme from sonnets, therefore it is clever how he draws on common ideas and uses them against this woman. The use of the “sun” is frequently used such as in ” shall I compare thee…? as a symbol of brilliance however in this sonnet it is used to show her eyes as very plain.The reader is made aware only in the third quatrain that he really does have feelings for her since he loves ” to hear here speak.
” Shakespeare reinforces her plainness by rhyming “sound” and ” ground” making them significant words. Since it is in the third quatrain that, we realise that he loves here although she isn’t physically attractive. The final rhyming couplet is always the most powerful, ending thought and therefore may compensate for the unpleasant comments before it.
These two lines show how much he feels for her.This is charming describing his love to be like no other and explaining how unique their love although she is not a typical goddess type woman. Millay was an experienced writer who wrote from the heart, and about what life had thrown at her, therefore there is a lot of doubt and fatalism in her words. Her poem “What lips my lips have kissed” is set out in the form of a Petrachan sonnet. Consequently, the poem is more an explanation or description of one thought rather than a series of events or discussing a feeling. The content of this sonnet is fatalistic yet the language is doubtful.The octet is just a long sentence and therefore one thought this creates a fatalistic tone to the poem as his makes it so intense. The first five lines have little punctuation which makes them run on sentences giving it a list quality which makes the reader feel that with every phrase it gets more depressing, due to how.
These lines have a close rhyming pattern, creating fatalistic tone. These particular words are accumulative in the sense that on their own they are powerful but together it makes a finite statement, as there isn’t a solution to her problems and she asks no questions.The ending phrases of the octet makes the reader think that Millay’s fate is inevitable because she knows that ” not again” will anyone love her. The sestet uses imagery of a tree and how the birds have let it, this is written in the past tense which makes it sound unchangeable, the birds have flown away and the are never coming back. The fact that they are ” unremembered lads” and she ” cannot say” what loves have come and gone suggests they were a long time ago, too far for the relationship to be rectified.
The ending suggests she is doomed to never find love again, and this is very weak ending which seems to fade as the word which ” more” rhymes with is two lines before it. The language is very doubtful, as there are question words such as “where” and “why. ” The ghosts are her own sub conscience waiting for a ” reply,” these images are metaphors of the author’s own doubt, since she doesn’t know the particular men who have left her but knows that now she is unhappy. She is doubtful that she will ever find love again, However, unlike Millay Elizabeth Barrett Browning is very different in her response to men.She was a lot younger and more naive when she wrote her poetry and brought up in a more sheltered environment, therefore her poems such as “How do I love thee? ” is about pure love.
She compares her need for God is the same level in which she needs him. She has a very firm belief in her love; it is ” ideal. ” Unlike Millay, she tells of her love being infinite, as she will love better after death. However, these may be viewed as fatalism since she was almost born with this love as if it was God’s choice, but as she loves with a “childhood’s faith” she has very little doubt.In conclusion is more common for men to woo women with wit and charm however, the way a woman responds depends on her personality. It is shown through the completely different sonnets from the female poets that a woman’s response to love can be very varied. Men woo with wit and charm because it is the only way they really know how to, although they try to stray from the rules set by Petrachan they do not get very far.
Since Shakespeare lived in a society much more similar to that in which Petrarca lived, however the women lived much later on and therefore their responses were influenced by the society they mixed in.