Compare The Fair Youth And The Sonnet

Decent Essays

2.2. The Fair Youth and the Dark Lady
2.2.1. Beauty and Attractiveness
Starting with the category of beauty, one must mention that since there are two beloveds in the sequence, it cannot a priori be as uncomplicated and straightforward as the category of beauty in the Petrarchan sonnet sequence. Indeed, beauty in the Sonnets is divided into the fair and black beauties, as well as the male and female ones.
To begin with, the fair cold beauty of Petrarch’s Laura is transferred onto the image of the Fair Youth: Although still shining and perfect, it becomes a male, not a female beauty. Furthermore, following Petrarch’s example, Shakespeare describes rather vaguely since his “goal is not the specificity of portraiture, but precisely the non-specificity …show more content…

More precisely, the lady is described as black and thus obviously confronting the convention, but she is still regarded beautiful – even if only by the speaker and his friend, who nevertheless feel attracted to her because it is the “heart that loves” (Shakespeare 141), not the eyes. In other words, the dark attractiveness of the poet’s mistress can still be ‘enjoyed’ since both the poet and his male friend find the lady attractive enough to sleep with her (in both cases) and to write poetry about her (in the case of the poet). This non-conformity of the female image and the introduction of the male image into the sequence is, according to Craik, the indication of Shakespeare’s deviation from the convention (165). At the same time, Callaghan retorts as follows: “[T]he inamorata … confirms to the specifications of type precisely because she is like no other” (19). A paradox seems to emerge here – the darkness of the Lady goes beyond the convention, but her extraordinarity complies with it. However, the black attractiveness of the Lady does not feel as beauty: Although attracted to her, the speaker distictly sees imperfections in her appearance (Shakespeare 141). Moreover, “Sonnet 130” clearly reveals that being “black” is not the only …show more content…

In fact, the sequence already begins with the speaker’s preaching his young addressee on the necessity of procreation as a means of preventing the otherwise inevitable loss of beauty. In the very first sonnet, the poet elaborates on this idea: “But as the riper should by time decease / His tender heir might bear his memory” (Shakespeare 1: 3–4). However, there is an incongruity about this point of view on heredity of beauty: As Schoenfeldt rightly notices, when the speaker urges the young man to procreate, he argues that the heir will inherit his father’s beauty and will continue it; at the same time, “Sonnet 3” suggests that the young man himself looks like his mother (128) – he is his “mother’s glass” (Shakespeare 3: 9). Thus, it stays unclear why the Youth’s son will look like his father and not like his mother. Later in the sequence, perhaps having noticed the aforementioned discrepancy himself, the speaker ‘realizes’ that not only procreation (as a quite unreliable way of continuing one’s beauty) can preserve the Youth’s handsome appearance; as another option, he promises to eternalise his addressee in his poetry: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee” (Shakespeare 18: 13-14). In such a way, for the purpose of eternalizing the beloved’s beauty “[p]oetic

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