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Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare, Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and The Flea by John Donne Essay

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When I first started this unit on ‘love’ I thought it was going to be dreary as love poems are not a category, which interest me, and I don’t take pleasure in doing work like this, as it can be embarrassing. ‘Love’ is about caring and liking someone; like a boyfriend would care for his girlfriend and a mother would care for her son. Love is associated with phrases like, ‘I love you’ and ‘I’ll love you till I die’, it also portrays images such as two people holding hands in public and kissing. Love is also about being hurt and going through difficulties. Inside my faith we aren’t allowed to kiss in public as it is considered embarrassing and appalling. In my religion (Islam) it is best if you stay a virgin until you get married. To have poetry, even in valentine cards is not something to be encouraged.

From the six poems, which I read I chose to analyse three of them, because they portray love in very different ways, the three that I chose were: –

1) ‘Sonnet 130’ by William Shakespeare

2) ‘Sonnet 43’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

3) ‘The Flea’ by John Donne

‘Sonnet 43’ was written In the Victorian times in the 19th century whereas ‘The Flea’ was written in the 17th century and the oldest one of them all, ‘Sonnet 130’ which was written in the 16th century. Therefore these poems span 300 years. There is one romantic poem out of the three; ‘Sonnet 43’ based on love entirely unlike the other two, which have humour in them because Shakespeare’s is based on looks, which is similar to ‘The Flea’ which is based on sex but not love.

Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 130’ is one of the 150 sonnets he wrote. Here he makes a joke of the romantic style of the time. He attempts to write his poem more truthfully and describe his lover as a normal person rather than using hyperbolic phrases about his lover like ‘Sonnet 43′, which cannot be true because they are out of our imagination. An example of this statement that indicates that he doesn’t use hyperbolic phrases is the first line of his sonnet,

“My mistress’s are nothing like the sun;”,

This tells us that his lover’s eyes are nothing like the sun. He also suggests in the second line that coral is better than her lips,

“Coral is far more red than her lips’ red:”,

This again is mocking his lover. He also suggests that that music is much more pleasing than her voice although he likes hearing her voice,

“I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound:”,

He also indicates that as he’s never seen a god how can he compare her to god,

“I grant I never saw a goddess go, -“,

He demonstrates why he has written like this in the last two lines where he explains that he loves her for what she is and that his love is true love because he sees the real person, not a sentimental, unrealistic picture of his love where everything is lied about, at this point he stops mocking his lover. These two lines are indented because he’s saying something special by giving a message,

“And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.”

This poem has a strong rhyming pattern just like Barrett Browning’s poem and both are blank verse and both have 10 syllables with 14 lines like every normal sonnet. I don’t think I would be pleased to receive this poem although it does tell the truth. He is being negative about the looks of his lover even though he explains why he’s writing like this in the last two lines. This poem is the beauty/lust based kind of love and I wouldn’t want to receive this poem as it isn’t at all romantic and it puts you down. I would prefer to receive compliments. This poem portrays love in a very extraordinary way as he loves his lover but puts them down because he talks about her being very ugly, but says his loves her like she is and doesn’t need to go over the moon in describing her.

In contrast, Barrett Browning’s sonnet describes her love as an angel, something which you cannot visualize, which is completely the opposite to Shakespeare because he writes truthfully, she also describes her love as some kind of god as well an angel as she uses a lot of religious vocabulary in this sonnet. Barrett Browning was from a very wealthy background and was the oldest of 12 children; her father was a doctor unfortunately she was bedridden because she injured her back while riding, so she used to write poems, later she met a penniless poet and eloped to Italy as her father insisted she couldn’t marry him! In those days if you did something like this you were considered as a whore. She must have really loved him to put herself in this position. She wrote this poem while on her deathbed; eventually she died in her lover’s arms from tuberculosis. This poem, ‘Sonnet 43’ describes how much she loves him.

She starts of by asking a rhetorical question but doesn’t wait for an answer, going straight onto giving eight ways in which she loves her husband,

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

She is indicating that there are lots of different types of love and she feels all of the! She uses a lot of hyperbole, as she loves him even further than her senses can reach,

“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.”

This is boasting but can be a romantic gesture, as she loves him immersely. She uses a lot of phrases that exaggerate saying how much she loves him, like she loves him like her everyday quiet needs, in other words she can’t live without him, as she can’t live without breathing,

“I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.”

She also says that her love is totally free of everything, this line again is boasting,

“I love thee purely, as they turn from praise;”

This is a very romantic poem as this poem is optimistic about her lover unlike Shakespeare’s sonnet, which is very negative but truthful. She must have treasured her husband a lot and had a lot of courage to write like this as she uses phrases like,

“…. If god choose,

I shall but love thee till after death.”,

Meaning that she will love him after she’s died when she’s in heaven her love will come down to him. She suggests that shell love him mo matter what he does, it’s him she loves, not what he does,

“I love thee freely, as men strive for right;”

She expresses her love very strongly by going into her heart deeply, she indicates that if there’s no love then there is no life, she compares love to life. This is a very romantic poem, which I would be delighted to receive as it compares me to something, which is almost unbelievable, unlike Shakespeare. Unlike the Shakespearian octet and sestet, this sonnet has three parts. The first six lines show how far her love goes, the next two lines tells us the way she loves him and the six lines tell us with what she loves him. This portrays love very strongly as she uses various metaphors and techniques to show how she loves her husband.

The final poem I am going to analyse, ‘The Flea’, which was written by John Donne, born in 1572 and known as a metaphysical poet because of hi ability to debate things. He uses a flea to make his point, something we consider nowadays to be dirty. He uses this flea to show that losing your virginity isn’t a major aspect of life. This argument is appealing although not passionate. In this poem he does what he is best known for, debate things.

He starts off by saying,

“Marke but this flea,”,

This line sounds like he is commanding her, he then goes onto suggest that what she denies him is very diminutive, as this flea has sucked blood out of himself and her, for that reason they are like a married couple. The last three lines are indented because he is making a point that he is jealous of the flea for the reason that the flea has not had to sweet talk her to get what he desires, like he has had to sweet talk her and he still hasn’t succeeded in getting what he wants, unlike the flea, which has just gone and done it!

In the second stanza he starts in the same way as the first stanza, commanding her. He tries to prevent her from hurting the flea as he argues that there is more than one life in this flea, there is his life, her life and their marriage bed,

“This flea is you, and I, and this

Our marriage bed…”

At this point he uses a metaphor where he describes the flea, as being a temple in which inside is their marriage with living walls of jet because…

“… and marriage temple is;

Though parents grudge, and you, w’are met,

An d cloysterd in these living walls of jet.”

He then indents the last three lines and mentions that generally you kill fleas but this one is special as if you kill it you will be committing three sins, murdering himself, her and their religion,

“Though use make thee apt to kill me,

Let not to this, self murder added bee,

And sacrilage, three sinnes in killing three.”

She kills the flea. Donne is disappointed as he says that there is innocent blood on her nail,

“Purpled thy naile, in blood of innocence?

In what could this flea guilty bee,”,

He says that what was this flea guilty of? All it did was take blood out of her, he then makes the point he has been trying to say throughout this poem, by saying that she’s killed the flea therefore she should be dead but she is not dead and it has done her no harm either!

“‘Tis true, then learne how false, feares bee;

Just so much honor, when hou yeeld’st to mee

Will wast, as this flea’s death took life from thee.”

This is a very clear and intelligent argument but it wouldn’t impress a lover, as all he is after is sex and not romance. If you did give this poem to a girl I assume you would get a clout in return as it is not something you would expect to receive from your lover. This poem sees love as a sexual thing, not a romantic thing. It is a clever argument but not at all loving. This portrays love in a sexual way that love is only about sex and all he wants is sex with a girl who he tries to persuade to sleep with him.

All three poems rhyme but they have different patterns. The two sonnets have different patterns; Barrett Browning’s has two patterns, which are abab cdcd efef g, and abba abba cdcdcd, which is the rhyming pattern if you include Para rhymes. However Shakespeare’s sonnet is abab cdcd efef g. As you can tell from these poems there is a major similarity between these poems, which are that both males write involving humour and the Barrett browning writes very seriously using very romantic words, this must be because she was on her deathbed and wanted to give her final thoughts of her lover before she dies.

The poem I would like to receive is obviously Barrett Browning’s poem as it boasts about you in a very positive way and it is also romantic which I am sure everyone would be pleased to receive, unlike Shakespeare’s and Donne’s, which I wouldn’t like to receive because it puts you down although Shakespeare is telling the truth. I like ‘The Flea’ the most because it is very cleverly thought out and it can be quite amusing and funny.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare, Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and The Flea by John Donne Essay. (2017, Oct 24). Retrieved from

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