Book Review: Sonnet 130-The Sonnets of William Shakespeare

Book Review:  Sonnet 130-The Sonnets of William Shakespeare

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

I took this opportunity to learn something about 16th-century writers, Shakespeare’s associated writers and clear examples of literary devices for which he may be well known.   I was taken by gender subtleties and the use of  the buried “tenor” to illustrate a male subject or “target domain.” ( 1)  In Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130” one word (tenor) is pivotal in a prior sonnet’s text and provides the texts “evidence” which shifts the focus for the reader.  I appreciate this kind of “driver,” and “target domain” that creates for the reader a  societal shift or movement towards the period’s radicalism. The whole poem may be anchored in this way, by one word, with which he reveals the text. Coincidentally, Shakespeare may be well known for the use of the target domain.  I was enchanted by the use of literary devices to layer his meaning both in ”form and function” as if in design.  Form and function are illustrated by the dynamic way in which each line is laid in a reverse pattern juxtaposed with the content also written to the contrary.  Shakespeare was privy to a 16th-century “sonnet craze” and chose to contrast as well as identify with many poets of this period.  Some associated writers of the period were:  Petrarch, Edmund Spenser, Thomas Watson, Michael Drayton, Barnabe Barnes, Richard Linches and Sir Philip Sidney. About Shakespeare’s poem, it is written, “to play off the tradition of Petrarchan love poetry.” (Abecarian, 839).  Shakespeare presented in response to classical comparisons of beauty, ideals and love of the period, a radical contrast in Sonnet 130.  Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 parodies and satirizes beauty, ideals, and love in terms of reversals with the use of alliteration, assonance, and anastrophe.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 uses alliteration where consonants are used close together.  (owlcation) In the first line of verse in Sonnet 130, Shakespeare uses alliteration to insert deeper meaning and even “coded” or hidden meaning often or for special effect.  The first line codes my mistress’s eyes, where one hears “stress mistress and eyes” as if in code.  There were earlier poets in the fourteenth century such as William Langland and Piers Plowman and even still earlier (Hildebrand) such was titled “Alliterative Verse,” and employed a diversity of rhyme scheme or in this case unrhymed scheme utilizing perhaps code or just repetition and consonants.

Shakespeare utilized the literary device “assonance” where words have similar vowels.  In the second line, it may have been in code “coral and far,” perhaps suggesting a clandestine meeting place in a barn or distant place.  Shakespeare, a master of English, style and writing as if by design, inserted innuendo, and perhaps coded messages within a variety of literary devices.  Shakespeare was said to have “written sonnets 127-154 to this mysterious dark lady.” (owlcation)

Shakespeare used negated similes to illustrate the reversal of ideals in the 16th-century society by employing anastrophe in his line structure. (owlcation) Although a variety of rhyme schemes were employed from Petrarchan Sonnet methods to alliterative verse, to assonance, what gave Shakespeare’s poetry its depth and richness were perhaps the layers of form and function.  The inverted language embodied an inverted idea which had inverted lines.  Shakespearean poems when dissected had perhaps several instances where for example he writes in reverse “in some perfumes, is there more delight.”  He inserts, in this case, intrigue and question, and perhaps the suggestion of an alternative or question whether a greater pleasure.

Shakespearean Sonnet 130 challenges beauty, ideals, and love via literary devices such as alliteration, assonance, and anastrophe.  Sonnet 130 is typical of an English love sonnet emanating from true Petrarchan style. Petrarchan sonnets during the 16th century followed a 14-line formula, an 8  line “octave” followed by a 6 line “sestet” and couplet. The rhyme may have had a “Valentine” 14-line love structure depending on which came first. The rhyme scheme for these poems was abab cdcd efef gg structure. (Petrarch Slide Share) On closer inspection, society may find Shakespeare referential, full of innuendo, coded, as if written to wife and lover simultaneously-for the blind and the seer.  The 16th-century culture may have reflected on this use of a literary device or on what became a sonnet craze, where one’s identity or even “intimacy” may be still further conveyed in myriad and dynamic rhymed and unrhymed schemes. As if one may insert into life something in every consonant, vowel, syllable, line-in every literary corner-one may find a place to insert meaning, impacting one’s identity and consequently one’s language and culture.  As if to use “all,” every consonant, every vowel, every literary ability, not efficiency or economy, but down some other road of utility, structure, architecture.  When one may have believed meter limited content, a fallacy indeed.  Shakespeare is perhaps made for the close reading, the examination and analysis,  the scrutiny, the more-and-more to find, the Easter egg hunt.  As if the document had pockets, or corners or roads, as if the writer were builder and words were bricks.  All methods or rather literary devices were carefully coded, perhaps to man and to language.  Man’s language and literary devices may reflect on the man himself.

Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 130,” Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz, and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. Print. p.838

Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz, and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. Print. An Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. The concept of love and beauty, Bergische Universität Wuppertal  (Anglistik und Amerikanistik) Introduction to Literary Studies,  2017 Anthology, Norton, 2005…

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