The Treatment Of Outweighing By John Donne And Shakespeare On The Writing Of The Period

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Hand to strange hand, lip to lip none denies,
Why should they breast to breast, or thighs to thighs? (Donne, ‘Sappho to Philaenis’)
Write an essay on the treatment of homoeroticism in the writing of the period.

The treatment of homoeroticism is explored through the influential writings of both John Donne and Shakespeare in the Renaissance Era. Similarly, the voice of both present a scornful dismissal of the opposite sex in order to defy the typical conventions of heterosexuality. Whilst Donne explores lesbianism in his poem ‘Sappho to Philaenis’, Shakespeare reveals a hidden homosexuality in his sonnet sequence, exposed through the analysis of both his literature, and the changes made to the 1609
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Donne contrasts ‘poetry’ and ‘desire’ with ‘verse’ and ‘fire’ to present parameters which display the vexed relationship between the rhetoric and the erotic. The rhyming couplets which hold this ‘desire’ and ‘fire’ metaphorically evoke both the sexual and the rhetorical. This erotic relationship is evident through Sappho’s physical description: the ‘holy fire’ is one of eternity, which cannot ‘decay’ within her heart. Ignited by eroticism, it is this fire that fuels ‘mind’s creatures’, a personification of thoughts, reflecting Sappho’s uncontrollable desire caused by the magnificence of her lover. Similar to the way Shakespeare scorns his female lover in favour of his male love in his collection of sonnets (1-…), Donne also depicts how his protagonist, Sappho, dismisses Phao disdainfully in favour of her relationship with Philaenis. Thus, both poets seem to respect metonymic sex instead of metaphoric intercourse. The ‘old poetic fire’ continues to enflame Sappho’s new desire. This is reiterated through Donne’s patterning, through his imagery of a candle. It is this which presents Sappho’s heart not with an image of her lover, but with ‘wax’, surrounded by ‘fire’, ignited by the passion of a woman.

However, as we delve further into the poem, there is evidence of cracks which form within the relationship, which result in a sheer loss felt by Sappho. She is ‘robbed of a picture, heart and sense’, as she loses her lover, Philaenis. As she grieves, she
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