The pre – twentieth century sonnets ‘In an Artist’s studio’ (1856) by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) and ‘Sonnet 18’ (1609) by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) are related because they explore the subjects of ‘Beauty’ and ‘Love’, however it is important to acknowledge that although they are similar in content, they differ due to the way they present the object of their desires from contrasting perspectives. Furthermore, whilst the poems share the conventional fourteen – line sonnet structure, Rossetti relies on the petrarchan whilst Shakespeare’s rhyme scheme is original.
The Petrarchan sonnet portrays Christina Rossetti’s older brother, Dante Gabrielle, who was obsessed with the model Jane Morris whom he used for inspiration in his paintings during the Pre – Raphalite period, which he himself founded. The aim of the Brotherhood was to produce earnest, quasi-religious works, motivated by medieval and early Renaissance painters up to the time of the Italian painter and Architect Raphael.
This was because as a whole they eschewed the sombre colours and formal vision preferred by the Royal academy at the time. This is illustrated by Dante Gabrielle’s paintings of the ‘nameless girl in freshest summer – greens’. By Contrast, Shakespeare’s sonnet is addressed to an anonymous person with whom he is infatuated. He begins by posing the rhetorical question of whether or not he should compare his subject to ‘A summer’s day’. He dismisses his question in the second line and argues ‘thou art more lovely and more temperate’.
William Shakespeare Sonnets 18
Although the diction used in the poem is ornate due to the tradition of courtly love of his time, his simple and direct analogy enables us to comprehend the nature oh his affection more easily. His use of iambic pentameter is also very efficient, there being ten syllables in each line and the use of a simple rhyming scheme with a couplet at the end helps to generate a calm and confident effect which contributes to Shakespeare’s general premise of the nature ‘Love’. Rossetti’s ode is written two hundred and forty seven years later and is therefore far simpler to grasp.
She describes her brother’s infatuation by using the word ‘feeds’ which indicates that he needs the model to sustain himself as he ‘feeds upon her face by night and day’. Rossetti uses language associated with food to convey the impression that love is essential to the contribution of life itself. The ‘nameless face’ is a portrait of perfection throughout all of Dante’s canvasses. Whereas Shakespeare woos his beloved through flattery by stating that his ‘love’ is better than the sun because, ‘Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines, and often his gold complexion dimm’d’.
The first part of the quotation indicates that the heat of the sun is sometimes scorching and therefore unbearable, the personification of the sun as somebody radiating out heat and causing discomfort enables him to describe his love as something more ‘lovely’ and temperate than the imperfections of the English summer. Although the objects of affection in each sonnet are presented differently, it can be seen that both poets are portraying perfection. Rossetti expresses that Gabrielle has presented Jane Morris beyond reality and has perfected her so, proving her to be ‘not as she is but as she fills his dream’.
Comparatively Shakespeare conveys that the being whom he is flattering is better than ‘a summers day’. ‘Summer’s lease hath all too short a date’ Stating that summer does not last whereas the beauty of his subject of desire will, expressing that the ‘lease’ of his exquisiteness is everlasting. There is a prominent use of natural worlds in both poems to glamorise Rossetti and Shakespeare’s subjects of desire equally.
Shakespeare chooses a ‘summer’s day’ to reiterate that his entity of desire is far beyond the beauty of a ‘summer’s day’ Whereas Rossetti’s simile Fair as the moon and joyful as the light’ suggests that the women in the paintings is presented as angelic and saint – like which is reflective of the pre – raphelite period in which they purposely hunted to bring a religious undertone to their art, and because they aimed to produce quasi – religious works. Again verifying the embroidered depiction of the ‘cherished individuals’. Both admirers Shakespeare and Rossetti offer immortality. Shakespeare quite ironically states that ‘Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade’ in line 12 of the sonnet, referring to the biblical reference, ‘oh death, where is thy sting?
Or grave thy victory’ (Psalms 23:3). This testimonial implies that death normally boasts of his conquests over life. Whereas Shakespeare implies that his ‘magnificence’ will not be forgotten even if death captures her. ‘When in eternal lines to time thou growest’, suggesting that it is through these undying lines that his subject’s elegance will be able to live by time. In his ending couplet, Shakespeare states that as long as men ‘breathe’ and eyes ‘can see’ his verses will live on commemorating and renewing the life he adores.
Similarly Dante Gabrielle’s paintings of the ‘selfsame figure’ will allow Jane Morris to be reminisced, obviously through the canvases. Although it can be debated that it is not the actual model of Jane Morris whom will be remembered, but instead the superficial self which Dante has created. ‘A saint, an angel – every canvas means’ Every depiction is created just as perfect as both a saint and an angel. I believe that this is a very important part to have identified because of Christina Rossetti’s tone whilst describing the ‘nameless – face’.
Rossetti highlights her animosity through the use of repetition in the first two verses. One face looks out from all his canvases’ ‘One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans’ Her tone here is cynical as she repeats the word ‘One’ suggesting that she is bitter and resilient to his portrayal of the model as well as his obsession. I personally enjoyed ‘Sonnet 18’ by William Shakespeare, because it is more effective in revealing the essence of ‘Love’ and ‘Beauty’. Although both sonnets are about ‘beauty’ and ‘love’ they are still quite different to each other. In ‘Sonnet 18’ Shakespeare uses an analogy to evaluate his subject to a ‘summer’s day’. He presents her through adoration and displays her as she naturally is.
However in ‘In an Artist’s studio’ Dante sustains upon the ‘selfsame figure’ that he possesses in his personal intellect. The model Jane Morris is placed on a pedestal to make her appear unblemished as well as angelic and unquestionably picturesque. Gabrielle does not portray her ‘as she is’ but instead, ‘as she fills his dreams. ‘ Both Sonnets characterize their treasured ones in unimaginable forms, they are exquisite to the outermost, simply by the use of unparalleled phraseology, manufacturing them neither as they arise but moreover as they saturate dreams.