Review of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Review of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets

For more than four centuries, the work of William Shakespeare has remained relevant to the reading public around the world. In his works, Shakespeare embodied the ideas of the late Renaissance – the ideas of humanism, humanity.

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Shakespeare’s early plays are imbued with a life-affirming beginning, and later ones are filled with deep philosophical meaning. But the most distinctive feature of the works of the great playwright is perhaps the image of living life. All situations are real and recognizable, tragedies raise vital issues to this day, which the 20th century has not been able to resolve.

Shakespeare continues to develop themes raised in dramas in sonnets, a collection of which was first published in 1609 and consisted of 154 sonnets. Shakespeare’s non-dramatic works comprise the smallest part of his creative heritage, but it is no less important and substantial.

Despite the fact that the collection of sonnets still reveals a strong Italian influence (in particular, Petrarchism), Shakespeare put into the traditional form of the sonnet a lively content of emotions and thoughts.

The themes of sonnets are diverse, but nevertheless, the main ones can be listed: first of all, this is undoubtedly the theme of love. Moreover, this love is different, contradictory, passionate, stormy and calm, unrequited. Shakespeare’s love is like a greedy beast:
So is love.

Her hungry look

Today I quenched to exhaustion,

And tomorrow again you are embraced by fire,

Born for burning, not for corruption.

The heroine of Shakespeare’s love sonnet is not a cold, proud beauty, an aristocrat, but an ordinary woman – the “dark-skinned lady of the sonnet”. In her description, the poet refuses general poetic cliches, this is his creative credo, “and all”:

She will hardly yield to those

Who in comparisons ardent slandered.

Nevertheless, the black-eyed beauty is no less insidious and treacherous; The poet’s love line is developing rapidly and contradictory. Sonnets in a certain sequence make up a whole novel with a plot, climax and denouement.

The “Dark Lady” can both laugh at the poet, and push him away, and then beckon again. The poet is experiencing these breaks and partings, and in the middle of the love sonnet novel there are lines in which hopelessness and sadness are felt:

I swear to tears that the dark complexion

And the black color of your hair is beautiful …

The trouble is not that you have a dark face,

You are not black, your affairs are black.

The love line is often intertwined with the motives of friendship – these two feelings are closely related to each other. The treacherous dark-haired beauty occupies the heart of more than one poet; the poet’s friend also got into her network:

It seemed a little to torment me

my best friend is captured.

But in this struggle of two feelings – love and friendship – always friendship feelings prevail:

But you will save the friend from the slave’s share

And command me to guard him.

I will be a guard, in captivity,

And I’ll pledge my heart for him.

And love here is no longer the “source of happiness”, but the “ugly affliction” with which the poet himself and his unhappy friend are sick. This ailment is also a component of the sinister atmosphere that surrounds the craft of the poet and his fellow actors in society. Around, in society:

The virtue that asks for alms

Over simplicity a mocking lie

Piggy in luxurious robes

And perfection is a false sentence.

Pessimistic sentiments in sonnets soon again give way to faith in life, joy and hope. We are dying, but at the same time we continue to live in our children:

… you look at my children,

My former freshness is alive in them,

They justify my old age.

Shakespeare considers failed to be a person who left nothing behind him, and especially the most important thing – children who would repeat it. Beauty, youth, vivacity of the mind are not needed and useless if they disappear forever, die with their owner. Such a person is like a miser who hides for himself alone what nature has given him. But nature will require him to calculate:

Adorable hunks, you’re glad to appropriate

What is given to you for transmission.

And in the terrible hour, appointed by fate,

What report do you give in your embezzlement.

Shakespeare’s appeal is to save life, to convey in children what nature “is given for transmission”.

Let the freezing blood over the years In the heir burns again.

And then a person will not be afraid of death, he will not be ashamed of his years. Each person’s duty is to repay what nature has given to man, this is his duty to mankind, to the woman who gave birth to him:

And if you repeat, do not rush

You’ll offend your traits, nature

You will deprive a woman of blessings.

So, we see how complex, diverse the themes of sonnets are. They give rise to numerous images. The most capacious, multifaceted image of the lyrical hero of these poems. The hero goes through all trials – love, jealousy, friendship – and each time opens up to us from new angles.

The image of the lyrical hero is similar to the heroes of romantic writers. But the range of problems is constantly expanding, the system of images is expanding: along with the dark-skinned beauty, the heroine of love sonnets and the poet’s friend, images of the crowd around appear, the lyrical hero solves not only romantic, but also the problems of life and death, the “continuation” of a person in this life and his existence in another world.

These ideas, which fully correspond to the Renaissance, fill the sonnets with a deep philosophical meaning. A special form of sonnet allows you to put in a single poem a whole story with deep meaning and almost aphorism at the end. The final two lines in the sonnet are of great interest: they contain a conclusion, appeal, advice, as if the result of everything written. By reading only the last lines of sonnets, you can already half present their contents and topics. For example, about life:

You are carved skillfully, like a seal,

To give your impression to the centuries.

Who betrays himself

He loves no one in this world.

The main part of the sonnet consists of three quatrains, which sometimes include a whole novel, a fascinating life story, draw one person from different watchmen, and any problem is posed and solved in the sonnet.

It seems to me that the Shakespearean sonnet laid the foundation for the Onegin stanza (although it is not divided into quatrains, but it has a coincidence in the rhyme itself, and here and there the last two lines conclude the main meaning). Even in the content of Shakespeare’s sonnets and lyrical digressions in Eugene Onegin, there is a certain thematic similarity.

Belinsky called “Eugene Onegin” an “encyclopedia of Russian life”, and Shakespeare’s sonnets still remain a kind of encyclopedia of feelings, philosophical puzzles and answers to them. The ideas of humanism, the circle of Problems raised in Shakespeare’s sonnets, are truly eternal values. Shakespeare’s images will always attract with their strength of feelings, passions, liveliness of characters and believability, be it Hamlet, Othello or the “dark-skinned lady of the sonnet”.


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