Classic English Literature
In drawing comparison between Shakespeare’s Sonnets 130 and 148, it is quite clear that Shakespeare uses the topic of vision (descriptions), and emotion (expressions) to highlight his feelings for his mistress. He has, by using themes such as love, beauty, emotion, and uncertainty, been able to draw the subconscious mind of his readers to relive what he himself must have experienced. Using contradictory and contrasting unconventional styles, Shakespeare was able to set off a precedence of intuitive thinking in his readers’ minds. When juxtaposed with each other, it looks like Sonnet 130 is the predecessor to Sonnet 148, for the simple reason that, Sonnet 130 is seen through the eyes of the speaker, who uses his descriptive illusion to suggest who his mistress, is, while in Sonnet 148, the speaker’s eyes speak of his blurred vision and that, even though her behaviour was unbecoming of her stature, his love for her was blind. By using expressions and emotions, Shakespeare breathes life into the minds of his readers. In deviating from the conventional Petrarchan style of writing of the Sonneteers of his age, Shakespeare, instead of expressing or showing his mistress as one whose eyes are like those of a twinkling star (Petrarchan), he begs to differ and says that “they are not like the sun.” While Sonnet 130 is all expressions, Sonnet 148, is all emotional. This is how Shakespeare introduces his mistress in Sonnet 130:
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
Here, Shakespeare, known for his ‘rebellious’ style of writing, compliments and uses extremely exaggerated comparisons to draw the subconscious mind of his readers. Unlike the other sonneteers of his time that followed the conventional and common form and style to write love sonnets, Shakespeare begged to differ. Sonnet 130 is a tribute to Shakespeare’s mistress, known as the dark lady. By portraying her caricature through the use of expressions like dun and dark wired hair, it is obvious that the lady in question was dark in color:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun
Shakespeare again goes for the juggler, when he compares ‘snow be white’ to ‘breasts are dun.’ ‘White’ is an expression used to refer to a woman’s complexion, while ‘snow’ was used to describe her soft, smooth skin. In comparison, Shakespeare says that his mistress’ breasts were ‘dun’ dark in color, signifying his mistress’ dark skin color. Shakespeare, by doing things differently, wanted to project his mistress as one who does not relate with the ideals of beauty. He challenges the Petrarchan values of beauty. The dark lady is the focal point of attention in Sonnet 148 as well. In using a descriptive tone, Shakespeare is trying to awaken the subconscious mind of the reader to imagine how his mistress looks. This is again seen in line 5, of Sonnet 130, when Shakespeare writes:
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white
The grandeur beauty of Petrarch is symbolized by women sporting red and white cheeks, while Shakespeare’s mistress is an ordinary woman:
But no such roses see I in her cheeks
This again shows that Shakespeare showed his mistress in a highly contradictory and confusing state, which instigates his readers to probe or visualize his thoughts. By showing that his mistress was not a Petrarchan beauty, Shakespeare rejects Petrarch’s form and content. While Sonnet 130 can be seen as Shakespeare’s visual representation of his mistress through his eyes, Sonnet 148 is about his emotional representation of his true love. The first line of the Sonnet seems to be a pained proclamation of Shakespeare’s feelings. When Shakespeare uses the expression, ‘O!’ one sees him express his volatile emotion. He doesn’t seem happy with what he sees, but tries to justify the possibility that love can blind his judgment, when he attempts to rationalize his predicament.
Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not, / When I against myself with thee partake?
Shakespeare loves the dark lady, but finds that she does not believe him. This pains him considerably, and he doesn’t know what will make her believe him. The Sonnet is an emotional justification by the speaker to his love. Line 8, is symbolic of this:
Love's eye is not so true as all men's: no,
Shakespeare says that despite all his efforts to woo her, she still does not trust his love. Emotionally upset by her unscrupulous behaviour, he tells her that it is very difficult to understand what true love is, as everyone will try to show their best side when it comes to courting. Infatuation could blind her. The final couplet summarizes the sonneteer’s emotions, as he says:
O cunning Love! with tears thou keep'st me blind, Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find.
Shakespeare is willing to forgive and forget all her immoral behaviour, and turn a blind eye to it because of his true love. However, although he is blinded by her immoral behaviour, and still refuses to reciprocate his love for her, she will love those who are not sincere to her.
In summarizing the two Sonnets, it is obvious that Shakespeare uses the two key forms of vision and emotion most convincingly to portray his love to the mistress; the dark lady.