Comparing Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker: Teacher Poets and the Essence of Literary Devices

Comparing Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker

Teacher Poets and the Essence of Literary Devices

By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

In response to the sixteenth century “sonnet craze,” I will compare two poems with satirical love and hate themes, one by William Shakespeare “Sonnet 130” and the other from 1926, a 12 line poem written in verse by Dorothy Parker “One Perfect Rose.” What was distinct about these two poems was their desire to subvert, mask, code, or symbolize.  Simple poems were made radical by use of literary device or word choice.  Very often, writers employed classical styles like the Petrarchan 14-line sonnet but used radical methods to convey distaste that often erupts into satire.  I selected this text to have a close reading of not only Shakespeare, as a “Teacher Poet,” whose writing embodies the very essence of many literary devices, but to also look at classic sonnets juxtaposed with modern poetry.

The desire to embed meaning using literary devices endures. Shakespeare’s use of alliteration in Sonnet 130, employs repetition of consonant sounds to encode messages perhaps for a lover.  Where Shakespeare writes  “my mistresses’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” a lover may desire a dark or dormant eye, or perhaps there was stress in the eyes  and emphasis on if one were to be discovered.  (Shakespeare 838).  Where Dorothy Parker may regard her single rose as a “flow’r” or something one gives when desirous of other maneuvers (Parker 845).  As opposed to alliteration she uses omissions and symbolism/personification to convey her target meaning.  Where Shakespeare may be entertaining clandestine meetings and lover’s descriptions disguised as wives, Parker may be forward, satirical, and express dissatisfaction.

Parker personifies her single rose as “flow’r,” as “messenger,” as a “long love,” and ultimately as a “limousine” (Parker 845).  Shakespeare writes “if snow be white, why then her breasts are dun.”  Both sonnets mask meaning with their expression of love.  Shakespeare makes what he calls a “false compare,” and Parker uses dark symbolism, personification, and simile to describe the single rose and subsequent lover’s intention.   Both poets use satire, but where Shakespeare will appeal to consonants, vowels, reversals with alliteration, assonance and anastrophe, Parker will employ, symbolism, personification, and simile.

Shakespeare utilized the literary device “assonance” where words have similar vowels; As would those of the same gender have similar sexes.  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 838).  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 as to whether a greater pleasure.

Use of a literary device in writing to teach may be a goal or result.  Poets may desire production of literature that is in service of education which is one distinct trait of both poems and their attention to literary device.  Clear use of  a literary device may result in the title of “teacher poet.”

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 scheme for these poems was abab cdcd efef gg structure. (Petrarch Slide Share) Dorothy Parker’s “One Perfect Rose,” is a 12-line poem written in ABAB in three stanzas.  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.  Parker may also have written 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

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

Parker, Dorothy. “One Perfect Rose,” Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz, and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. Print. p.845

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


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