Shakespeare's Sonnets

Milton and Shakespeare: A Contrast of Love and Death Through the Sonnet Form College

John Milton and William Shakespeare both address topics of love and death in their respective sonnets, but do so in radically different ways. They employ different structural techniques and subjects within the realm of love and death, and in doing so reinforce radically different points, but their differences only reinforce the skill with which both discuss their subjects. Milton’s “Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint” and Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73” both display a masterful use of the sonnet form because they are able to convey their messages about love, death and the place of humans in the world in such strong, but such radically different, ways.

Milton’s poem structure and carefully-constructed couplet aid in the final message of death and gloom he delivers at the end of the poem. While “Methought I Saw” initially contains relatively pleasant imagery, describing how “love, sweetness, goodness” (11) shines in his wife the couplet immediately reverses any positivity Milton’s audience would have associated with the poem. He describes how, when he went to embrace his wife, “I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night” (14). While the first three quatrains of the poem discuss the beauty and purity of the wife who has been...

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