Comparative literary analysis essays examples

Classic English Literature

What makes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 and Much Ado About Nothing is that they portray women representing two qualities associated with love; appearance and character. While Shakespeare’s lady love in the sonnet is ‘ dark and average,’ his play shows Hero’s love conquering ‘ deceit and infidelity.’ His play Much Ado About Nothing and poem, Sonnet 130, share similar theme as the lovers struggle to achieve true love through their struggle against deception, music, and punishment. Love can be deceiving, and it can be the cause for heartbreaks resulting in failure.
After Claudio leaves Hero’s wedding angrily, Friar, who believes that Hero is innocent, talks to Leonato and plan to deceive Claudio into believing that Hero died. Leonato is told to pretend that Hero has died so that the whole town would scorn Claudio for the tragedy and grieve in sympathy, while Claudio, who hears this, will feel guilty for the way he acted. Leonato meets Don Pedro and Claudio on the street, where he tells Claudio, “ Thou hast killed my child. If thou kill’st me, boy, thou shalt kill a man” (V, i, 87-88). In order to make Claudio think that Leonato is grieving and angry at Claudio, Leonato challenges him. Leonato is in fact trying to make Claudio think that he was instrumental in encouraging Hero to die, and that, it was easy for him to do that. He wants to pick on Claudio and therefore, ridicules him by saying that it is easy to kill a woman but different to kill a man. Therefore, kill me to prove that you can kill a man. A lot of incidents take place until finally, Dogberry, who was a sentry at the palace, brings Borachio before Leonato and Claudio, who tells them that he had plotted to stop the marriage of Claudio with Hero on Don John’s advice. Claudio feels guilty for the way he behaved. Leonato claims that Hero is innocent, and Claudio accepts his mistake and pledges his love for Hero. In Sonnet 130, Shakespeare describes how unattractive she mistress looks, yet he still insists that “ As any she belied with false compare.” Here, Shakespeare makes a direct reference to the dark lady of his love.
It is true that when someone is in love, they tend to compare their lover with supreme beauty. Many poets are known to draw unrealistic comparisons when they write about their love, and he wasn’t going to be drawn by such unscrupulous practices. When a woman’s beauty is described, comparisons are drawn using nature and physical beauty. However, in Shakespeare’s case, he believed that there was no point in making false judgments and stuck to reality. The dark lady; a woman, should on all accounts be referred to as being fair and vibrant, but here, states quite clearly that his ‘ mistress’ is far from fair, “ her breasts are dun.” Shakespeare says that his mistress should not be represented by ridiculous comparison to other women. There is a lot of extravagant claims made by other poets about their women, and this is not something he was going to adopt. He wanted his woman to be the she is; simple and down-to-earth. Therefore, by using the word ‘ dun’ he not only makes the reader think about his lady love intensely, but question why a comparison is drawn to create an uncertainty in her. He believes that his mistress is an amazing woman and she should not be compared like how many other writers do. Shakespeare shows how much he loves her by breaking the cliché that looks matter. He shows how love and hope are closely related, and love can help break through the dark.
In writing Sonnet 130, and particularly how he represents his lady love, Shakespeare seems to suggest that a realistic view to love is necessary for it to succeed. This probably answers the question why Shakespeare chose to have his lady love, “ 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 ;”( Lines 1-3). From the above verses it can be said that Sonnet 130 takes a practical view of what love stands for. It’s quite clear that Shakespeare didn’t mean to have his woman to match the beauty of a goddess or of resplendence of nature; for she is a normal human being. Therefore, in contradiction to the conventional practices where poets use deceit in describing beauty, he was against this doctrine and wants to present his love the way she is. This again is emphasised in the line; “ I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground” (Lines 11-12). Shakespeare wants to break the practice adopted by other writers who draw comparisons of beauty to that of goddesses and nature. He doesn’t want to be seen as another person who believes in ultimate beauty. Comparisons are deceitful and he doesn’t want to manipulate the thoughts of the reader by saying that it heavenly. He is down-to-earth, and so too is his lady love. He doesn’t want his readers to think that his love is comparable to a goddess; something he or anyone else, could have seen. He states that his mistress is not a goddess and she couldn’t be even be compared to one at any time, because she is after all, a human being. He then goes to justify that despite his love for her, he couldn’t even think of portraying her close to the beauty of nature; “ My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red” (Lines 1-2). The use of ‘ sun’ signifies energy and light, and these qualities are associated with youth. Similarly, when he says that her lips are less reddish than that of corals, it signifies that they were far from ultimate beauty. Therefore, in reading these lines it can be said that Shakespeare broke from traditional pattern of writing to present his lady as normal as any other woman. He didn’t want his readers to think that his love was the source of ultimate beauty; which she was not.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio demonstrates his chivalry by admitting his anger-driven reaction at Hero’s wedding as a mistake, and was willing to face punishment. Claudio knees down before Leonato, and begs for forgiveness. He admits his mistake and swears with shame that he was ready to face the consequences of his act; “ choose your revenge yourself. Impose me to what penance your invention can lay upon my sin” (V, i, 284-286). Claudio asks Leonato to choose any method to punish him for his sin. He made a grave error of doubting Hero for which he admitted his mistake. He couldn’t bear to question any punishment Leonato decided and was ready to face it to repent for his sin. Claudio, for his act, believes that Hero, because she was shamed which ultimately led to her death, would forever live in the hearts of her people as a gallant lady; “ So the life that died with shame lives in death with glorious fame” (V, iii, 7-8).


While Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 is intriguing because for the first time, Shakespeare makes it obvious that beauty is not in appearance but in character. He wasn’t willing to deceive his readers by glorifying his dark lady love with ultimate lover. He believes that there was no point in following traditional literary convention of beautifying women for the cause of deceiving his readers. There are challenges when it comes to love, and as mortals, Shakespeare didn’t want to depict his lovers to be immortal. They had to undergo pain and punishment as any other person born on this planet does, and be as normal as anyone else would be. Britain, during Shakespeare’s time was growing economically, and people were willing to do anything to become rich. While the country flourished, the people faced all sorts of societal problems, including murder, betrayal struggle, and lust. Theater also flourished during this era, and that is why Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, reflect British society of his time.