John Donne: Poems

Weaving Together Wit: Striking Similarities in “The Canonization” and Sonnet 55 College

William Shakespeare’s 55th Sonnet and John Donne’s “The Canonization” are both poems that possess the same themes, anxieties, and cultural practices, thus illuminating the two poets’ experiences in early modern Britain. According to Sasha Roberts, “’wit’ in the early modern period denoted ingenuity, intelligence, imagination, and verbal prowess and was arguably the most highly valued in literary faculty—more so than originality or authenticity. Shakespeare’s Sonnets demonstrate wit in abundance, not least in [their] deft use of paradox, conceit (an ingenious comparison often turning on unexpected or contrary states), imagery, and wordplay” (Roberts 179). Through their musings about love and artistic identity, these two poets used paradox, conceit, imagery, and wordplay to create provocative poems that ask profound questions - only to show the ridiculousness of (or lack of) any answer.

Sonnet 55 is a famous Shakespearean poem that considers artistic identity, love, and passing time as it seeks answers that only lead to paradoxical conclusions and more questions. The surface narrative of the poem suggests that the speaker simply wants to immortalize his beloved friend in verse, instead of immortalizing himself as a poet (which is...

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