English poet playwright William Shakespeare and Italian poet/ humanist Francesco Petrarch are known to be pioneers also in the field of sonnets; yet there is a slight distinction between their approaches to love and the beloved, and their preference of rhyme scheme and sonnet structure. Petrarchan sonnets aim to praise the beloved in an exaggerated manner whereas Shakespeare’s glibly satirical portrayal of the beloved in contrast to Petrarch’s depiction of Laura is most obvious in his sonnet 130.
Below are the sonnets of Petrarch and Shakespeare to give a better sense: �
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 �
- Shakespeare, Sonnet 130
In what bright realm, what sphere of radiant thought
Did Nature find the model whence she drew
That delicate dazzling image where we view
Here on this earth what she in heaven wrought?
What fountain-haunting nymph, what dryad, sought
In groves, such golden tresses ever threw
Upon the gust? What heart such virtues knew?—
Though her chief virtue with my death is frought.
He looks in vain for heavenly beauty, he
Who never looked upon her perfect eyes,
The vivid blue orbs turning brilliantly –
He does not know how Love yields and denies;
He only knows, who knows how sweetly she
Can talk and laugh, the sweetness of her sighs.
-� Petrarch, Sonnet 156
The Approach to Love and WomenEdit
Petrarch embraces the courtly love, in which women are put high on pedestals, praised, and regarded as the epitome of perfection. In the Petrarchan understanding of love, men are sinners, and only with the pure love of the glorified beloved can they be pure again. Men have to prove themselves in order to deserve to be loved. However, Shakespeare does not idolize women in the obsessive way Petrarch does. That said, in his sonnet 130, Shakespeare satirizes Petrarch’s sonnets by describing the dark lady with seemingly-positive but actually negative adjectives and figure of speech, and brings women of courtly love down from their pedestals.