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How is the theme of love presented in 'Sonnet 18' and 'First Love' (20)
In both 'Sonnet 18' and 'First Love', the narrators address their love interests through a series of affectionate sayings. Shakespeare compares his love endearingly to a summer's day, while Clare mainly speaks of the effects that the girl has on his mind and body.
On one hand, in 'First Love', Clare uses a multitude of devices in order to describe her beauty. For example, he speaks of how her face 'boomed like a sweet flower', emphasising how his love interest holds the same beauty as that of nature, through his use of a simile. In contrast, Shakespeare speaks of how 'thy eternal summer shall not fade', highlighting his love's everlasting beauty through this prolonged metaphor that runs through the poem. Similarly, both authors use nature to display their affection towards the women, as previously demonstrated. It could be argued that Shakespeare's language use has a more dramatic effect on the reader, as he continuously references the beautiful summer, creating the idea that his love is unconditional.
Clare's title, 'First Love', directly addresses the subject of the poem and is useful to the reader for instantly mentioning the theme. On the other hand, Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 18' is extremely ambiguous and mysterious as it has no relation to the subject of love in the poem. While this may be interpreted as exciting, as the reader doesn't know the subject, it is more likely that it will be taken in a negative light, as it does not convey the layers of meaning at all. Therefore, Clare's title is significantly more appealing to the reader because it is simple and straight-forward.
In 'Sonnet 18', Shakespeare uses an alternate ABAB rhyme scheme, which is then broken in the penultimate line, by a rhyming couplet. He evokes a sense of closure, speaking of how she 'gives life to thee'. This could be interpreted by the reader as symbolising how she is the only thing that the narrator cares about, as he ends by discussing how she gives him a purpose in life. Similarly, Clare uses an ABAB rhyme scheme, however, it isn't broken at any point, which is less effective than Shakespeare's approach as it doesn't provide a sense of finality about his love.
While describing the effect the girl has, Clare uses enjambement in order to create the impression that his flow of thoughts about her is endless and that he has a lot to say, Similarly, Shakespeare attempts to deliver his prolonged thoughts through a constant use of commas, which keeps the poem flowing. However, I would argue that Clare is more effective at displaying his love in this way, as he also uses a caesura when speaking of how 'words from my eyes did start-'. This illustrates the idea that the narrator has become lost for words at the very sight of her, creating an impression on the reader that he is truly in awe.
Overall, it could be argued that both texts are aimed at similar audiences, as they discuss the same topic, of love for women. While Shakespeare seems to be more deliberate and confident, possibly implying that he is actually speaking to her, Clare is more set on describing her, instead of trying to impress her. In my opinion, Clare sounds more convincing and sweet because she seems to heavily impact his ability to speak, whereas Shapespeare's narrative is confident and sounds slightly superficial