I will be writing a thesis about marriage of true minds or companionate marriage through transgression as depicted in Shakespeare's plays. I have not finalized the plays I will use yet, but I...

I will be writing a thesis about marriage of true minds or companionate marriage through transgression as depicted in Shakespeare's plays. I have not finalized the plays I will use yet, but I usually try to find some ideas that are reflected in sonnets and the plays as well. For example, "the marriage of true minds" is my ground idea.

But I was also thinking of linking "My mistress' eyes" to Much Ado's Benedick & Beatrice couple and also the spoof at sonnet writing tradition in ADO.

Is there anything that comes to your mind from sonnets that might be linked to plays?

Expert Answers
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question really made me think!  I am very proud of you for attempting this particular thesis and, yes, there are things "that come to my mind from the sonnets that might be linked to plays."  You have already breached the subject of Much Ado About Nothing, and I applaud that idea.  So let me present some new ones for you.  Specifically, the new connections to the sonnets I am thinking of pertain to the plays The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet

First let's compare Sonnet 130 to The Taming of the Shrew.  Because there are only 14 lines in every poem, I'll put the first poem here in its entirety.  Then we'll have an easier job comparing it to the play.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

The nameless lovers in this sonnet can be compared to Katharina and Petruchio, especially with these lines:  "I love to hear her speak, yet well I know/That music hath a far more pleasing sound."  Why?  Katharina is known as a "shrew" which simply means she is a stubborn and uncompromising woman.  In today's society, I suppose she would be known as a "witch with a capital B."  We can hear that here in this sonnet; music (ANY music) has a far more pleasing sound than the words coming out of his lover's mouth.  Further his "mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground."  No doubt, as a shrew, Katharina does this as she enters a room, especially when she is irate about something (which is most always until the end of the play).  Now let's look at the last two lines as compared to Petruchio.  He originally begins the play hoping for the conquest of Katharina for the money.  But who, in fact, is "tamed"?  Is Katharina or Petruchio tamed?  These lines could very well be said by Petruchio as he falls in love with Katharina:  "And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/As any she belied with false compare."  When given kindness and respect, Katharina ceases to be a shrew and begins to be the woman of Petruchio's dreams.

Next let's compare Sonnet 18 to Romeo and Juliet. Again, because each sonnet is only a 14-line poem, we might as well copy it here for you as a quotation (in its full form).  In this way you can get a nice primary support quotation or two for your thesis.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Honestly, we could very easily insert this entire sonnet during the famous "balcony scene" of Romeo and Juliet!  It fits in perfectly with the "love at first sight" idea as well as Romeo's infatuation with Juliet that he is beginning to explore (and most people will admit definitely turns to actual love by the end of the play).  One can just imagine Romeo standing down there in Juliet's courtyard, holding up his hand, and proclaiming this (even before he is wiling to speak her name out loud).  Think on these lines:  "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?  It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!"  And on, and on, and on!  Romeo goes on to say that the fair sun will rise and "kill the envious moon" ... which could go very well with summer's "lease" having all "too short a date" in the sonnet.  It could also be compared to the "gold complexion dimmed" by Juliet's beauty!  In fact, we can even take the last two lines, the ones that mean the actual sonnet will give immortality to his lady, and say that the actual play by Shakespeare can give immortality to Romeo's Juliet!

So, as you can see, these two plays can easily be compared to these two sonnets!  There are many more, I'm sure, but it was very fun to use these to explore love through Shakespeare's words.  I wish you all the luck in your thesis endeavor. I have also included some important eNotes links below that will help you begin and will, very likely, be good secondary sources for you.

Read the study guide:
Shakespeare's Sonnets

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question