I need help writing a thesis statement for a research essay I have to do.  This is the question:What ideas of love, friendship, and marriage are displayed in Shakespearean sonnets, such as 30, 55,...

I need help writing a thesis statement for a research essay I have to do.  This is the question:

What ideas of love, friendship, and marriage are displayed in Shakespearean sonnets, such as 30, 55, and 116.

Expert Answers
droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good question! The answers above talk about structuring your essay, so let me help you come up with some ideas on what points you could actually make.

Shakespeare’s sonnets aren’t written to his wife, which is an interesting first point. There are two lovers involved: the Fair Youth and the Dark Lady. Arguably, the sonnets depict different types of love; if we look at Sonnet 30, we see an example of the sort of all-encompassing love the poet declares for his “friend,” which his mistress never quite warrants:

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,  

All losses are restored, and sorrows end.

In this poem, the poet is mourning everyone he has ever loved and lost, but says that having his newest love makes his heart whole again, effectively.

Sonnet 116 is a classic often read at weddings, but please note, it isn’t about marriage. The “marriage of true minds” means the joining or unifying of true minds: this sonnet falls within the Fair Youth cycle, and obviously the poet has no intention of marrying him. (There are various sonnets in which the poet bemoans the fact that the boy’s “woman’s face” are on a male body.) Rather, this sonnet is a powerful statement about love and how it should not “alter when it alteration finds,” meaning that real love does not fall at the first hurdle.

So far, then, two ideas appear; love’s power to heal wounds and the fact that true love should admit no impediment. In Sonnet 55, we see the poet make an argument about immortality to which he returns several times. Having committed his love, or the boy’s beauty, to writing, these things will live forever, as the poet’s verse will live forever. The idea in this poem, then, is that a lover can immortalize his beloved such that love will never fade.

You may also like to look at some of the sonnets after 126. All the ones you have selected are “Fair Youth” sonnets, and the poet expresses some interestingly different (and far less traditionally romantic) ideas towards his mistress than he does towards “thou my lovely boy.”

sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It sounds like your writing prompt is the following: "What ideas of love, friendship, and marriage are displayed in Shakespearean sonnets, such as 30, 55, and 116?" If that is the case, then the associated thesis needs to stay focused on at least one of those three topics. In other words, don't write an analysis of the rhyme scheme. Make your thesis about how love, friendship, and marriage are displayed in those three sonnets.

I recommend a double-sided thesis. Make the first part of the statement something that you intend to disprove, and make the second part of the statement your main argument. This thesis format allows you to openly discuss a reader's possible counter-arguments to your main argument. Start with the word "although," because it forces a dependent clause that must be followed up with your independent clause. For example: "Although at first glance, it seems like the three sonnets are discussing different aspects of love, in reality, all three sonnets are describing the same characteristics of love." This thesis allows you to freely discuss how the poems are different from each other; however, it also forces you to describe how they are alike in theme.

susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to the question will be your thesis statement.  Embedded in your question are sub-questions:  how are love, friendship, and marriage defined in the poems?  what characteristics do they have?  how can they be preserved? what relationship do they have with time?  Look carefully at each of the sonnets you mentioned.  You may find common threads and be able to synthesize your ideas into a thesis like this:   

By showing that friendship can end sorrow, that love can and should be immortalized, and that marriage beween true minds is steadfast and unchanging, Shakespeare's Sonnets 55, 30, and 116, respectively, depict the value of human relationships.