Shakespeare, the Unromantic Poet

One would think the master of all poetry would have given his dame a greater sense of beauty, but I was shocked to find this piece of literature terribly unsympathetic and realistic. He gives her not just a bad review, but paints her in such a contrast to the ideal woman that she seems more like a pig than a swan.

But the real motivation for Shakespeare’s sonnet is to contradict and poke fun at his contemporary Petrarch, an Italian poet who created seemingly unrealistically beautiful portrayals of women such as his usual common thread, “My woman’s eyes are like the stars.” I don’t think there’s anything embarrassing with these portrayals, but it’s terribly funny to compare these brilliant poets and their ingenious portrayals of women.

Hence read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130,” and see whether you agree with his method of flattery:

My mistress’ 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; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare    As any she belied with false compare.

Would any man, in his right mind, repeat this devastatingly funny poem to his mistress? I think not.

As I near the wedding of my brother, I think this poem is a friendly kick in the gut to Petrarch, who would always say the sweetest things about his woman in his sonnets.

It would be a painfully humorous and sarcastic joke to repeat this aloud. I believe my brother would do a better job in complimenting his lover than Shakespeare to his.

Still, it is a humorous topic to show to young literary scholars, who should probably never repeat this to their lovers, but only in healthy jest.

Leave it on your shelf, Shakespeare. I know you created many wonderful pieces, and this sonnet in particular is reserved for literary spite than romantic gestures.

Adieu, Shakespeare.

Twelve signs you’re a true English major…

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It was the saddest day when I had to return these to the library. They were my greatest friends during my senior literature project.

It’s my senior year, and I’m finally realizing the true characteristics of an English major. We’re tough, strong, and self-conscious about our grammar. We love books, Oxford commas, and bubble gum shaped like Shakespearean books. But most of all, we love that we can geek over little things together, small things like correcting our classmates’ grammar or editing a romance novel we got for homework.

I admit it: We’re geeks to the extreme core.

If you’re anything like us—or worse, if you’re an English major at all—you’ll notice that you’ll find some predilections very common in your daily or semester routines. And if you abide by these characteristics, I’m very sorry to say that you are a true English major; there’s no going back.

  1. You memorize every famous line by Shakespeare and apply Hamlet’s soliloquy to your daily life: “To sleep or not to sleep; that is the question…” you say during finals week, for instance.
  2. You love endnotes because they look cute, and you use them just for fun.
  3. By your sophomore year, you’re writing 10 pages on two stanzas of poetry, and you actually enjoy it.
  4. You have erasers or bubble gum shaped like your favorite classical books, like Canterbury Tales or Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  5. You know Colin Firth only as Mr. Darcy.
  6. You carry three bibles with you: Associated Press (AP), Chicago Manual of Style and MLA.
  7. You don’t love your Chicago Manual until you carry it with you everywhere, even in the kitchen.
  8. You get the greatest thrill from editing commas in a proofing project, especially if it’s a romance novel.
  9. You live in the library’s basement, and you know all the librarians by name.
  10. You feel you have no purpose until your next big paper; you actually cry when your senior project is over.
  11. Fridays are the saddest days because there’s no school until Monday.
  12. You get goosebumps from reading your favorite novels, and when you return your library books, you feel like you’re parting with old friends.

Hanging out with English nerds makes me realize not only the geekiness of my life, like the way I geek over Shakespeare books in the form of bubble gum, but also the severe fact that I’ll never escape these traits in my whole life.

Let’s face it: we’re either born English majors, or we’re morphed into being English majors. We live three to four years at college, get acquainted with our professors, and sooner than we know it, we’re drawn into studying literary criticism, analyzing poems for pentameter breaks, and when we go home we’re automatically correcting our siblings’ composition papers—just because we can.

We can’t change who we are, but even if we can, we realize we find greater joy in stressing over pentameters and Milton’s Paradise Lost than we would ever have over anything else. We love what we do, and it comes from the long hours we’ve spent together, the repeated assignments we’ve shared in freshman composition or introductory courses in Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer. And finally when we get published in our university’s literary magazine, we feel the same thrill of ecstasy and relief.

Only by living out these qualities do we finally realize the true depth of being an English major. Coming all this way to a university makes me appreciate my field even more, and I relish every moment of it.