Choose your two favorites from the thirteen assigned sonnets by Shakespeare. List some of what you think are the best lines from each, and describe why they appeal to you. Read Sonnets I–X,...
Choose your two favorites from the thirteen assigned sonnets by Shakespeare. List some of what you think are the best lines from each, and describe why they appeal to you.
Read Sonnets I–X, XVIII, XLIII, and CXXX from Shakespeare's Sonnets.
Of the thirteen sonnets assigned, the two that are most famous and perhaps most beloved are Sonnet XVIII and Sonnet CXXX. These sonnets are easy to understand and have wonderful wording and sentiments.
In Sonnet XVIII, which forms part of Shakespeare's "Fair Youth" sequence, the poet declares that the one he loves (believed by most scholars to be a young man) is lovelier and "more temperate" than a summer's day. He goes on to tell why his love is superior to summer and to grant him immortality through the words of this poem. One of the best lines is line 3: "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May." Referring to buds as "darling" is at the same time surprising and meaningful. We greet the budding trees with joy in the spring and hold them precious, but often brisk winds arrive with the buds. Line 7 is also lovely and thought-provoking: "And every fair from fair sometimes declines." This line notes that all beautiful things fade from beauty eventually, just as the loved one's beauty will fade as he ages, except as he is immortalized in verse. This line has a lyrical sound because of the alliteration of /f/ sounds and the assonance of the long /i/ in the last two words.
Sonnet CXXX is delightful and refreshing in the way it praises the poet's loved one without succumbing to overused poetic hyperbole. The poet mocks other poets while refusing to follow their ostentatious ways of praising the women they love. Right away the poet denies that any solar qualities belong to his beloved: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun." Several of the lines are downright funny. "If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head." This doesn't sound like a love poem at all! "No such roses see I in her cheeks" sounds like heresy. Writing that "Music has a far more pleasing sound" than her voice breaks every rule of how to compliment a lady. "I grant I never saw a goddess go" is lyrical because of its alliteration of /g/ sounds. Line 9 is perhaps the funniest line in the history of love poems: "Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks." Usually one wouldn't get very far trying to woo a woman by telling her she has bad breath. The final couplet is the perfect ending, making all the near-insults of the previous lines melt away; the poet declares that his love is just as fair as any other woman, but that he doesn't need to win her with false compliments.
Shakespeare's Sonnets XVIII and CXXX are two of his most famous sonnets because of the sentiments they express and the skillful, lyrical wording they use.