Not only is poetry known for evoking emotions of the readers but also for evoking emotions of the poets themselves. There are many different definitions of poetry, as many as there are poets, yet each of them express how poetry is rather a feeling than something that is able to be easily defined. Whenever described, people tend to express how poetry made them feel, rather than attempting to give an exact definition. Poetry affects all people, as each poem has a different meaning to each person depending on the reader and what he or she has experienced. Poetry utilizes many different themes and devices to form more personal connections with the readers, but one of the main and most compelling themes is love. Love is used in poetry to describe relationships, heartaches, and some poets even use their poems to portray the true meaning of love. All throughout his poetry, William Shakespeare interprets diverse relationships to depict the concept of love in “Sonnet 18,” “Sonnet 106,” “Sonnet 116,” and “Sonnet 130,” proving that love has no definite meaning but has an everlasting will.
Without a doubt, William Shakespeare portrays the true concept of love through his mockery of the exaggeration of beauty and emphasis on everlasting love in “Sonnet 18”. Shakespeare compares the beauty of a young person to nature, specifically a summer’s day, but he then describes how summer is not lasting or pleasing enough to be compared to his beloved (Fleischmann 77-78). Shakespeare is trying to emphasize the fact that his beloved’s physical attributes are so beyond compare that not even the beauty in a summer's day can be associated to something so great. Shakespeare expresses his everlasting love for his beloved and for beauty through the fact that summer does not seem pretty enough to be a comparison. Moreover, summer does not last long and will eventually fade into Autumn, but the beauty of his love is eternal: “In the next line, however, the poet uses the metaphor of summer’s lease being too short, apply indicating the transitory nature of a season and, by extension, a year and a life” (Lord 3549). Summer may be appealing, but the appeal of summer does not last long, where his beloved’s beauty is eternal.Therefore, summer is unfit of being compared to such beauty. Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18,” also focuses on the ability of art and artists capturing and conserving beauty through the ages. Beauty in nature and in the natural world will eventually fade away, but as long as people live and as long as the poem is kept alive, the beauty of the young man will last forever: “So long men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and gives life to thee” (Shakespeare 13-14). Shakespeare is expressing that as long as readers give “Sonnet 18” life, then his beloved’s beauty will remain eternal. All in all, both Shakespeare’s inability to compare his beloved’s beauty with summer’s false pretensions and his certainty that their love will last as long as the poem is alive portray the strength of his love for his beloved.
As a result of Shakespeare’s continuous mention of the appeal of beauty and the significance of time in “Sonnet 106,” he represents an everlasting and intense love for his beloved. “Sonnet 106” touches on the difficulty of portraying true beauty into words, emphasizing how literature is incapable of verbalizing genuine beauty. Shakespeare suggests no poet had or has the ability to truly celebrate, in words, the beauty of the handsome youth (Evans 109-110). Shakespeare has so much love for his beloved and his beloved’s beauty that he is incapable of effectively putting such beauty into words: “For we, which now behold these present days, have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise” (Shakespeare 13-14). Shakespeare expresses how people have the eyes to witness beauty but can not seem to use words to truly describe the greatness of such beauty. In addition, the passing of time is a main aspect of “Sonnet 106” as seen by time portraying the distinction between physical and spiritual beauty, in that spiritual beauty may last forever, but these women or men will eventually die as physical beings (Evans 109). In this sonnet, the speaker does not focus on the beauty of the beloved’s character, personality, or spiritual beauty; instead the main focal point is on the beauty in physical aspects: “The narrator personifies beauty in the form of a coat of arms which accentuates the erotic images of his love’s finest attributes: foot, lip, eye, and brow. These common physical, and even sexual, images initiate a change from the spiritual to the physical” (Lambdin 1). Shakespeare praises his beloved’s physical beauty, which causes a separation between spiritual and physical beauty, which is that physical beauty will eventually fade, but spiritual beauty is eternal. In conclusion, Shakespeare portrays his love for his beloved through his emphasis on the fact that such beauty is too great to ever be correctly put into words and the fact that time creates a distinction between physical and spiritual beauty.
With the attempt to depict the everlasting will of love, Shakespeare, within “Sonnet 116,” sets straight the misconceptions of love and shares his interpretation of the true meaning of love. Shakespeare touches on the point that there are many misconceptions with love, and he sets those false accusations straight by giving his own true meaning of love (Imus 113-114). In this sonnet, Shakespeare gives people the genuine meaning of love in a time where marriage was a form of family obligation, and in most cases, there was no love involved in the marriages. Love is stronger than anything, and is not that easily altered or broken: “True love operates in the realm of eternity. Not even death can apart true lovers; their union endures forever. Because love has the capacity to raise human action to this exalted state, love alone enables humans to transcend temporal limitations. Humankind becomes godlike through love” (Livingston 3587). Shakespeare explains in “Sonnet 116” that love does not bend or break, and does not change just because something about a situation or a person may change. After Shakespeare tells the readers what love is not, he begins to describe what he believes love truly is. He says love is everlasting and stronger than death and is compared to a lighthouse or “the star to every wandering bark, whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken,” portraying how love guides any wandering person who feels lost” (Shakespeare 7-8). Love is unstoppable, undying, unchanging, unaffected by time, and has no limitations. Shakespeare’s beliefs on love are portrayed all throughout this sonnet, including his belief that love unites minds on a mental and spiritual level and how love is simple, not rushed, and eternal (Livingston 3587-3589). Overall, Shakespeare contrasts the delusion many have about the meaning of love with his own beliefs on everlasting love to correct the misconceptions of true love.
For the duration of “Sonnet 130,” Shakespeare uses mockery to point out the exaggerated praise of the beauty of one’s lover and the importance of inner beauty to depict love’s true meaning. In Renaissance poetry, comparing one’s love to nature is very common, but in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130,” he explains his beloved as being nowhere near as attractive as nature’s beautiful productions: “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” (Shakespeare 2-4). He continues to describe how his beloved’s physical attributes do not meet up to the beauty of the aspects of natural phenomena. Shakespeare is not comparing his love to nature in a positive and common way, but his mordant description does not mean that he finds her any less pleasing: “She is as rare as any of those women whom poets describe with comparison that exaggerate, and thus belie, human beauty” (Hale 3593-3594). The point for portraying his love as incomparable to nature’s beauty is because he admires her other characteristics more.“Sonnet 130” is mocking the excessive appreciation of physical beauty, and Shakespeare displays that this form of praise can suppress the true meaning of love (Imus 117).
Shakespeare criticizes his lover’s outward appearance so harshly because he is trying to prove his point that physical beauty means nothing to him when genuine love comes into retrospect. He dismisses these overused exaggerations of beauty, for he only cares to celebrate her for her real self and for her true beauty on the inside (Imus 118). Shakespeare portrays everlasting love by mocking the exaggeration of beauty in order to display that inner beauty can be more important than outer beauty, moreover what a person’s looks have to offer.
All in all, Shakespeare portrays love’s eternal will through his poetry, specifically in “Sonnet 18,” “Sonnet 106,” “Sonnet 116,” and “Sonnet 130.” Moreover, In “Sonnet 18,” Shakespeare starts to compare the beauty of his lover to summer’s beauty, later realizing that summer’s traits are not anywhere near earning association with his beloved. He then praises past authors for their ability to conserve beauty through the ages and how the same can be done with “Sonnet 18” as long as the poem’s love for beauty is kept alive through the readers. Next, in “Sonnet 106,” Shakespeare expresses his strong love for his beloved’s beauty, sharing how the beauty is too great to put into words. He then describes how the passing of time shows that physical beauty eventually fades, but spiritual beauty lasts forever. Furthermore, within Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116,” he addresses the misconceptions of love during a time where most people were married out of family obligation, with no love at all. Shakespeare then combats these misconceptions by sharing his ideas on the true meaning of what love is, everlasting and undying. Lastly, in “Sonnet 130,” Shakespeare mocks the inflated appreciation for outer beauty by negatively comparing his beloved’s physical attributes to nature, expressing how his beloved’s looks do not meet up to the beauty of nature. Shakespeare then goes on to explain how he does not find his beloved any less appealing just because she may not be exceedingly beautiful but that he appreciates and cherishes her personality and character more than looks and outer appearances. In conclusion, love may cause grief and heartbreak upon eons of people in the world, but love conquers all materialistic and physical mishaps between people and will continue to bring eternal comfort to all.