What kind of poetry did Shakespeare write?
Over the course of human existence, every facet of life has dramatically evolved to match the condition of society.
The first human shelters were merely primitive caverns to protect from harsh weather. However, since then, shelters have transformed into elaborate homes that now serve as an expression of wealth and are the product of ever-changing technology. While this example is a physical development in the human timeline, intangible items, such as emotions, have grown in a similar manner. Although there is no way to ‘see’ the changes in different emotions, expressive media is an excellent method to convey the shifts in meaning of certain emotions. Humans have always found solace in the emotional storytelling of music and literature, both of them serving as ideal resources to observe the change in how humans have perceived the meanings of different feelings.
Love is one of the most prominent emotions written about by authors. And naturally its meaning has changed tremendously throughout the years. With poetry, readers can isolate the attitude that the author has towards love, which is usually reflective of society’s opinion on love as well. Through the poems “Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds” by William Shakespeare and “The Storm” by Kate Chopin, the reader can identify the metamorphosis of the meaning of love between two distant time periods. Above all, there are two distinct disagreements between the authors’ descriptions of love in their work: the flexibility of love and the purpose of love.
For an individual, love has many different forms that it takes on; whether it be with family, friends, or a romantic partner. The subject of most literature is romantic love, which is usually the meeting of two people who develop affection for one another. However, this generalization is vague, and when analyzing the interpretations of ‘love’ in literature written centuries apart, the differences come to light. Perhaps the most notable discrepancy is in regard to the rigidness of love. In Shakespearean sonnets. More specifically in Sonnet 116, “Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds”. Love characterizes as a feeling set in stone, unwavering to changing circumstances; “it is an ever-fixed mark” (Shakespeare, Line 5). In 1609, this was the inflexible structure of a relationship, a sign of the traditional love that Shakespeare writes about.
Regardless of changing circumstances, a couple was expected to remain fully devoted to each other, even if there were irreconcilable disagreements or they simply drifted apart. Shakespeare preached the permanence of love throughout Sonnet 116, while also leaving room for the reader to understand that with permanence of love comes coldness and distantness between the partners (Neely).
Naturally this makes it seem as though love was a forced concept during this time period, where people were submissive to society’s expectation of a couple staying together, even if it was at the expense of their own happiness. In the eyes of individuals today, this is a greatly oppressive and outdated way of approaching a relationship, and it is rather unrealistic for people to abide by this strict set of rules. For people living in Shakespeare’s era, however, love was an unbreakable bond that required the sacrifice of individual desires, otherwise it was not true love.
Kate Chopin, an author most noted for her work in the 1890s, takes on a modern definition of love, contradicting Shakespeare. In stark contrast, “The Storm” features Calixta, a wife who breaks the vows of her marriage by cheating on her husband, however despite her infidelity, still shows great love and affection to him when he is present.
This demonstrates a clear disconnect in the meaning of love from Shakespeare to Chopin; while Shakespeare would have called the love of Calixta and her husband fake, Chopin still considered this to be true love between spouses. There is less restraint put on Calixta than the women in Shakespeare’s sonnets. And while it may not seem to be ‘love’ if there is infidelity. Itt may be a sign that love was less repressive during this time period. At the end of “The Storm”, Chopin shows another example that love can be flexible, referring to the wife of the man Calixta had sex with: “And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days” (Chopin 7). The man, Alcée, had been away from his wife, Clarisse, for an extended period of time, and although Clarisse loves her husband, she is enjoying the time away from him. Shakespeare would have frowned upon this separation between spouses. As in his mind lovers were meant incomplete without one another.
Chopin drives this point in one of her most popular pieces, “The Story of an Hour”, where the main character, Mrs. Mallard, loses her husband in a train accident. Although deeply sorrowful and in love with her husband, she feels a great sense of freedom knowing that she can act without restraint in her marriage (Larsson and Erskine). Chopin emphasizes in many of her stories the concept of “free love” with the goal of liberating women from the injustices of marriage, essentially calling for more individualism in relationships where both partners can love each other, but still feel unchained by expectations, like Calixta, Clarisse, and Mrs. Mallard did (Skaggs). While Shakespeare’s view on love required the two individuals to devote themselves fully to one another, Chopin wishes to make clear that a wife should be able to love their husbands without giving up her individuality.
While Shakespeare defended the ideology that the union of two individuals was through marriage. Moreover, required the unfaltering devotion of both parties, there was a greater purpose to marriage in his eyes: children. In Shakespeare’s ‘young man sonnets’ (Sonnets 1-17). His main objective is convincing a young man to both get married and have children with his wife. With much analysis, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Shakespeare felt so strongly about having children. That he believed the sole purpose of marriage was to bear children:
Summarized as “marriage is figured as an investment whose dividend is offspring” (Kay and Shakespeare).
With that in mind, Shakespeare’s opinion on devotion to marriage becomes more understandable. In his belief, the parents don’t need marriage for their own happiness. But out of true love that they once shared and the goal of raising children. While never explicitly mentioned in Sonnet 116. One can infer that Shakespeare felt that children would have been a part of the marriage he described. Particularly when he refers to love as a guiding star (Shakespeare, 934). One may interpret this as Shakespeare implying that love can guide a couple down the path of a fulfilling marriage, which in his eyes, included children. Similarly to his opinion on marriage, this is an unfashionable rule to follow with marriage, as times have changed greatly since then. With greater focus on individual happiness in today’s society. Procreation is not forced upon couples as it once was.
Shakespeare’s traditional values and views on love are less applicable to people today, and even as far back as Kate Chopin’s time, where she also made clear her views on the purpose of a love.
Similar to how love is often viewed today, Chopin felt that love was intended for happiness. In line with Chopin’s beliefs, she contends in her novel, “The Awakening”. That sex and lust should be guiltless. Even if they are extramarital, if they provide happiness. This expands Chopin’s stance to encompass physical love. Arguing that if happiness is found with a merely physical relationship, it should not be frowned upon (Dyer). Chopin shows similar justification in the case of Calixta and Alcée in “The Storm”, condoning their lustful encounter.
She uses these stories to emphasize that happiness is of the utmost concern, while simultaneously suggesting that if breaking social norms provides happiness, one should do so. Additionally, each individual should feel fulfilled by their relationship with the other, and if they did not, Chopin felt that they should do their best to find happiness, even if it required them to leave the relationship altogether. She details this viewpoint in “Athénaïse”, a piece about a girl who runs away from her husband because she feels she is not ready for marriage. Chopin’s writing style throughout this work is rather neutral, illustrating the fact that the girl is not running away from her spouse because she dislikes him, but because she simply does not like being married (Koloski).
In Shakespeare’s eyes this would have been viewed as nontraditional, for he found marriage to be a permanent, unbreakable bond.
However, Chopin emphasizes that there is no issue with this, as the girl found herself unhappy with a lack of true love in her situation and did what she felt necessary to be happy. In essence, Chopin expressed through her various works that happiness must be the outcome of any relationship, and any relationship without happiness as a result is not worth carrying on.
After analyzing both authors’ stances on love, the differences rise to the surface and clear divides can be spotted between the two. It is evident that personal freedom and satisfaction are of the utmost importance in Chopin’s opinion, while love and the sanctity of relationships are of the highest value in Shakespeare’s mind. Both viewpoints are signs of each of their times, greatly reflecting the general opinion of most people at the time. These bodies of work are essential in keeping record of such worldviews and serve as an excellent resource to look back at historical perspectives. As every facet of society does, love has grown and changed, yet it still remains a timeless aspect of literature. For years to come, love will be a crucial lens through which literature can be analyzed and its growth will be measured even further, exemplifying its changes over many more generations.
What kind of poetry did Shakespeare write? Works Cited
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm, and Other Stories: with The Awakening.” Old Westbury, N.Y.
Feminist Press, 1974. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.
Dyer, Joyce. “The Importance of the Work.” The Awakening: A Novel of Beginnings, Twayne,
1988, pp. 13-17. Twayne’s Masterwork Studies 130. Gale eBooks, https://skynet.ccm.edu:
Accessed 2 May 2020.
Kay, Dennis, and William Shakespeare. “The Sonnets and a Lover’s Complaint.” William
Shakespeare: Sonnets and Poems, Twayne Publishers, 1998, pp. 96-152. Twayne’s English Authors Series 547. Gale eBooks,https://skynet.ccm.edu:2066/apps/doc/CX15 91100016/GVRL?u=ccmorris&sid=GVRL&xid=f5268ba8. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
Koloski, Bernard. “Susan Lohafer on “Athénaïse”.” Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction, Twayne Publishers, 1996, pp. 121-128. Twayne’s Studies in Short Fiction 65. Gale eBooks,https://skynet.ccm.edu:2066/apps/doc/CX1706800034/GVRL?u=ccmorris&sid= GVRL&xid=daeb2a13. Accessed 22 Apr. 2020.
Larsson, Donald F., and Thomas L. Erskine. “Chopin, Kate.” Critical Survey of Short Fiction: American Writers, edited by Charles E. May, 4th ed., vol. 1, Salem Press, 2012, pp. 423-428. Gale eBooks, https://skynet.ccm.edu:2066/apps/doc/CX4003800091/GVRL? u=ccmorris&sid=GVRL&xid=042e0a32. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
What kind of poetry did Shakespeare write?
Neely, Carol Thomas. “Detachment and Engagement in Shakespeare’s Sonnets: 94, 116, and 129.” PMLA, vol. 92, no. 1, 1977, pp. 83–95. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/461416.
Accessed 22 Apr. 2020.
Shakespeare, William. “Let Me Not to the Marriage of Two Minds”. The Norton Introduction to
Literature, edited by Kelly J. Mays. W.W. Norton & Company, 2016, pp. 934. Skaggs, Peggy. “Critical Reputation.” Kate Chopin, Twayne Publishers, 1985, pp. 5-11. Twayne’s
United States Authors Series 485. GaleeBooks, https://skynet.ccm.edu:2066/apps/doc/CX 1894600013/GVRL?u=ccmorris&sid=GVRL&xid=43c6a128. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.