‘Valentine’ and ‘Sonnet 18’ both explore the theme of love. Scottish born poet, Carol Ann Duffy, wrote ‘Valentine’ in 1993 and William Shakespeare, a well-known English poet of the time, wrote ‘Sonnet 18′ in 1609. Both poems investigate different aspects of love; however, there are some similarities in the underlying messages and the poets’ view of love as well as differences. As in many of Duffy’s other poems, ‘Valentine’ reflects on time, change and loss. She discovers moments of consolation through love, memory and language. The poem is written using very simple words but in a complicated way. On the other hand, ‘Sonnet 18’ is written in a very different language to what we know today but its underlying message is still relevant for today’s world. The reason ‘Sonnet 18’ is still so popular today is because of Shakespeare’s ability to capture the essence of love so cleanly through his Sonnet. Both of the poems, therefore, are universal. They can be said to apply to both the male and female sexes; however, it is known that Duffy is a homosexual and Shakespeare possibly wrote the poem for a man.
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In ‘Sonnet 18’ Shakespeare views love as eternal. The opening line poses a simple question “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”. Shakespeare goes on to say that summer can be ruined “By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed” but “thy eternal summer shall never fadeâ€¦. so long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Shakespeare reveals that love, “eternal summer”, is more permanent then the season and, “shall never fade”, unlike summer (beauty) itself, because summer is spoiled by the occasional winds and the eventual change of season: “nature’s changing course untrimmed.” so summer must always come to an end but so long as “men can breathe or eyes can see” love will “never fade” and it will continue to revitalise your life, “give life to thee”. Shakespeare shows that true love is eternal even when the beauty of that person has gone, the love shared between the two people still remains the same.
Similarly, in “Valentine”, Duffy suggests that true love is perpetual, through the use of “an onion” as a symbol of love. She uses “an onion” to show her lover that her love is more original, honest and true. She says, “Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,” The “fierce kiss” could be a metaphor for love. This love is “possessive and faithful” and will continue to be so “for as long as we are.” Duffy shows that when you have kissed someone with a “fierce kiss”, when you are in love, you will never forget the person, as it will “stay on your lips”. This could be construed to show how when two people are in love, the love they share will never be forgotten. She says that love is “possessive and faithful”, like Shakespeare, she demonstrates how when you are in true love you are “faithful” to each other but also you are “possessive”, this could be a positive aspect as it could show that you always want to be around the other person but it could also show, unlike Shakespeare, that love is can be a burden. She continues to show the negative of love by saying “Lethal, Its scent will cling to you like a knife”, this shows she thinks that love is “lethal” as you can’t get way from the love you had or have for that person. ‘Valentine’ also differs from ‘Sonnet 18’ as it goes on to say that love will be “possessive and faithfulâ€¦for as long as we are” Duffy is being realistic as she makes a recognition that this relationship may not last forever, Shakespeare fails to mention this however, this could be because it was written in a different era and many people did not break up at that time. But even though she is writing in quite a harsh and negative tone displaying aspects of love we would not expect in a love, however, the poem still comes across romantic and truthful.
One of the main themes in ‘Valentine’ is the rejection of traditional symbols of love, such as ‘red roses’ or ‘satin hearts’ in favour of ‘an onion’. She is criticising conventional ideas and empty gestures of love. Duffy uses single isolated lines to highlight why she rejects the conventional Valentines: “Not a red rose or a satin heart…Not a cute card or a kissogram.” She believes that these have ceased to be original as they have been sent millions of times and have lost their meaning. Duffy then goes on to say why “an onion” would be a better representation of love. “It is a moon wrapped in brown paper”. The “moon” is supposed to govern women’s passions. The “light” which it “promises” may be both its literal brightness, that love can bring light to your life or a metaphorical understanding of love as if you were being enlightened. The removing of the papery outer layers suggests the physical aspect of love, like the “undressing” of those who prepare to make love. Duffy shows her brilliance as a poet by structuring the whole poem around this elaborate and imaginative extended metaphor.
Shakespeare is also being very cynical about love. He demonstrates that love is not about beauty. He first says, “thou art more lovely and temperate (than a summer’s day)”, which illustrates that the person is more beautiful “than a summer’s day.” However, summer’s days are not always so perfect: they are shaken by “rough winds”; and the sun often shines “too hot,” or too dim. Summer comes and goes, “hath all too short a date”, and it leads to the withering of autumn, as “every fair from fair sometime declines.” But then Shakespeare goes onto say if you are really in love “thy eternal summer shall not fade”, which shows that even though the person’s beauty has gone because of the passing of time as the person gets older, the person’s lover can see past that as he is blinded by the love he has for that person. Like Duffy, Shakespeare sees that many people don’t look past the conventional ideas of love; they don’t think about what love really is and what it entails. Similarly he shows us that love “can bring life to thee” so love can give you a new purpose to your life and thus will not die.
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In ‘Valentine’, Duffy gives us some negative views of love and marriage. She continues to use the “onion” to portray her message. The onion is like a lover because it makes one cry “It will blind you with tears”. This shows how being in love can make you very emotional, this could be seen as a negative aspect as she maybe referring to emotional strain of being in a relationship but also it could be a positive, as the tears could be of joy. However, like Shakespeare, “blind” may also suggest the traditional idea of love blinding you so this could also be a positive aspect of love. The onion reflects a distorted image of anyone who looks at it, as if this reflection were a “wobbling photo”. This suggests that when you break up with someone you love, you cry and grieve, so your reflection in a mirror becomes a “wobbling photo of grief”. Once again, Duffy has been truthful and has highlighted the things love can do to a person. Personally, I find this refreshing in a love poem. She goes on to talk about marriage, “It’s platinum loops shrink into a wedding ring,” as the onion is a series of concentric rings, each smaller than the other until one finds a ring the size of a wedding ring. She uses “platinum”, to highlight that the ring is of marriage as many wedding rings are platinum. However, she subtly adds in “if you like” this shows that she thinks that you do not need marriage to show your love, this reveals Duffy’s view to marriage as futile as the tone suggests that she is saying “if you like” like “if it would keep you happy”, showing she would be willing to get married if the other person wanted to. Some might say that this is a proposal, as if she wants to get married, however if it was there would be no need to put the line after “if you like”. There is also a hint of a threat in the suggestion that the onion is “lethal”, as its scent will “cling to your knife”. Duffy shows how the knife, which cuts the onion, is marked with its scent, as if ready to punish any betrayal. *****
However, in ‘Sonnet 18’, Shakepeare does not give any negatives about love or marriage. He does warns us about falling for someone based on their looks, which could be a negative, but nothing about breaking up or what love can do to someone. In fact, he does the opposite. He says “to time thou growest” which shows that as time goes on his love to the other person grows. He says that love “gives life to thee”. Unlike his previous sonnets where Shakespeare has been trying to convince his lover to settle down and have children, in “Sonnet 18” Shakespeare this domesticity for the first time and accepts love’s all-consuming passion. This theme continues in the rest of his Sonnets. On the other hand, Duffy is against marriage as it seems she thinks it is useless if you really love the other person, there should be no need to get marries. Once again the erave someffect on the views to marriage and love. As in the Elizabethan time marriage was sene in whioch these were written could h
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