Sunday, 28 August 2016

Sonnet 21

Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse
What better way to enhance the delivery of your message than to self analyse and provide an alternate version of what your message is. George Wyndham cites this Sonnet as the first one to address the issue of a rival poet and predictably take shots at him though at this point it sounds like nothing more than a general criticism rather than a trolling of a particular rival. At its greatest significance, it would be satirising of the attitudes towards writing at the time.
The first line delves straight into the main theme of the Sonnet, the criticism of the rival writer. Apparently Shakespeare is unlike 'that' guy who's writing, emotions and flair are aroused by an elegance manufactured by cosmetics, "... stirred by a painted beauty to his verse." The modern day equivalent of an attraction based on the magic of make-up. Ain't it nice to get the opinion of the greatest writer ever on such a hotly debated topic. However, it could be that the persona is quite simply referring to an actual painting for example the Monalisa. Whilst such adoration might seem justifiable, the fact that this would not be in actual fact a real woman would diminish the supposed authenticity of the emotions expressed thus erasing any sort of clout the piece of writing might have.
Almost in lamentation, Shakespeare notes that this good-for-nothing rival goes as far as to describe a 'fake' muse at par with the Heavens and all else beautiful. There does seem to be quite a bit of irony whether intended or not in that Shakespeare has been thus far doing exactly the same thing unchecked. Admittedly this rival's writing seems on the face of it 'baseless' according to Shakespeare but is a questionable muse really solid ground to mount a full blown criticism of one's writing? This Sonnet is starting to feel more like the result of two squabbling minds; a fallout probably over the Fair Youth. However, if we are to assume that such behaviour is beneath the persona then this part of the Sonnet becomes nothing but a ploy to establish his own writing as the one worth a read, one to be believed and one to ultimately convince the Fair Youth to share in his love.
So similar is Shakespeare's writing to this rival poet, "... sun and moon...April's first-born flow'rs...and all things rare that heaven's air in this huge rondure hems, " that it is almost certain the two speak of the same individual. These exact descriptions or similar ones differently phrased have already been used by Shakespeare in previous Sonnets so this rival might not be a fraud after all. This whole criticism becomes a question of whether this rival's love is sincere or he is just trying to trump Shakespeare at wooing. According to Shakespeare, the latter is more plausible.
In an unimaginable twist, the persona plays down the beauty of the Fair Youth, "As any Mother's child" that being his beauty, what would be so special if he was so ordinary? Quite simply nothing. The whole atmosphere around the Youth seems to have changed because Shakespeare seeks to be distinguished from this rival. Is keeping the superlatives in check really better or should he continue to compare the Fair Youth to all that is extravagant?

Would you describe your lover in the dullest way possible just to dodge a cliché? William Shakespeare would.