Nov 14, 2018 in Analysis

Literature Theory Essay


Many poets produce good pieces of literary work either in form of poems or plays. Shakespeare, Greenberg and Schweickart are the most influential writers in the world history. This paper defines their poems and artistic styles, which they used in producing plays, poems or films. It majorly focuses on the topics of transformations of homosexuality and classifications of homosexual acts in the society. These topics address the value and societal regard for both genders and homosexuals, meaning they explain the kind of social structure the society should build and which one the poem recommends for homosexuality. Shakespeare wrote sonnet 18 to address a man of great beauty. Shakespeare uses descriptions of power and nature of images and compares them directly to the power that young men possess. It views homosexuality as a normal feeling amongst humans that should be embraced. Sonnet 20 touches on the mystery of Shakespeare sexuality and the cultural significance of the increasing homosexuals in this sonnet. It defines homosexuality as a way of expression of preferences and differences in individuality. Both sonnet 18 and 20 give homosexuality a receptive approach because they allow homosexuals to exercise freedom regardless of the public view.  Schweickart brings out a strong view on how both genders interpret the text. Greenberg is strongly revealing more on homosexuality and society views on life and conduct of homosexuals.

Thesis Statement

This paper analyzes most read and recognized poems, Sonnet 18 and 20, which focus on the languages people use to seek power, freedom and approval in the society through homosexuality. Sonnet 18 and 20 present a varying point of view about homosexuality in that while they embrace homosexuality, other poets such as Greenberg and Schweickart argue that the act is unacceptable to older aged individuals. This is because it disqualifies the position and significance of women in the society.

Sonnet 18 is titled “Shall Compare Thee to a Summer Day”. The poet compares the one he loves with the summer time; however, according to him, he comes out with an answer that his beloved is better than summer. The poem itself is written in typical literature form, because it has 14 lines of progressive writing and ends with  rhymed verses. It follows the rhyming scheme of “abab”, “cdcd”, “efef”, and “gg”. Traditionally, this poem divides the sonnet in the two parts.  The part at the beginning shows time as an enemy of passing nature of  real beauty; there are also references to the different passages in terms of time “may”, “day”, “date”, and “summer (James 124).

Sonnet 18 begins with a question, which is directed to the youth. It gives readers the sign that the author directed it to a young man. However, the use of the word “I” in the first line gives a difference with the word “thou” in the second line. This reveals the basic theme of the poem, because it seems like it is less an acknowledgement to the beauty of the youth.  Personification is seen to occur throughout the poem, especially in the form of summer (”summer’s let out”), nature (“nature’s changing course”), sun (“his complexion”), and death (“shall death brag”). In this essence, death and summer bring out or suggest human relationships. Death comes out as a rival for the poet’s love, while “summer’s let out”, which is echoed in line 8, extends the figure of speech (James 125).


Shakespeare compares himself with summer right from the first line and this extends to the last verse. According to him, summer in actual sense presents a perfect time, falls short of youth perfection, and so it becomes disgrading to be compared with him. Summer season has “rough winds” and “too short a let out”, while in case of youths there is back up of “eternal summer” at the beginning of the period. Still in this poem, “the eye of heaven” represents the sun, while the “gold complexion not bright” can be interpreted either as sun’s strength or beauty, which has been stained by the clouds just as the beauty of the youth has been discolored by time. Nature’s “untrimmed” has been used to mean either plain portraying that nature will scrap off the youth’s beauty or can be used to mean the sails of a ship, trying to explain that nature’s course is unadjusted. The word “untrimmed”, as used in the poem, means unadjusted, and so Shakespeare tries to explain that the things that remain unchanged are actual nature’s changing, “flexibility is eternal”. Actually, this interpretation gives strength to the structure on this sonnet, which is octave, and represents change and period; thus, causing the actual endurance of written words (James 126)

Sonnet 20 is a physical and important sonnet because it speaks on a young man becoming a passionate master-mistress or lover in the actual poem. The problem of description is present because of the young man’s character and double nature. Although the young man possesses a charm, gentleness, and physical attraction of women, he has no female playful and fussy characters. The double sexuality is portrayed very well, and there is an emphasis of the youth challenges in this poem. The man has a difficult life because for him possessing the beauty of a woman is a priority. He has to collaborate with women himself, but at the same time, he becomes an attraction to other men. The poet is not concerned with the defeat of time or with a young man’s fathering a child, but his interest is directed to discovering their relationship’s nature. The poet acknowledges that the young man has an erotic attraction to the youth, but he does not actually entertain the possibility of a physical portion of this love. This poem stirs most critical argument; especially critics, among those, who has led sonnets as life stories. The issue here is not what would the outcome be, but what the feelings of the poet are (Shakespeare 130).

According to Schweickart in his work “Reading ourselves: toward a feminist theory reading”, we see his argument that the gender of a leader has a greater influence on the ground, in which the reader interprets a given text, whether this text is written by a female or a male. Schweickart addresses the notion that females have a particular way of reading texts. First of all she begins with references of Fish and Iser’s theories on the concept of reading and on the way women address it between the work of the text and the worker of the reader, but she plays ignorance to the fact that gender plays a key role in the interpretation. She argues that other men cause emasculation meaning women are taught to think like men (Schweickart 490). Additionally, when females read texts written by their counterparts, they try to connect with each other (Schweickart 495).

The whole idea of Schweickart essay is emasculation; especially, when she says that women suffer the consequences of modernization, because men take time to identify themselves as males, who are of the universal sex. The woman is told that she is not good enough, and she has to be able to stay in a way that best pleases the man’s preferences. The culture that writers live in pressurizes women making them accept the normal life. This kind of life runs according to men’s system of values. Schweickart essay brings out the idea in different perspectives other than that of female struggles to raise or build their own position in the male authority (Schweickart 495).

Greenberg in his work contends that the terms “gay”, “homosexual”, or “lesbian” are old-fashioned. People, who still use these terms, believe that homosexual behavior is manifested because of some inner sense, which can be a result of psychological or biological determinants and which is relatively stable over time. He continues to add that this characteristic is of a minority population in the society. Greenberg views homosexuality as the behavior that is interpreted and produced in the different ways within specific communities and different times. According to him, homosexuality is not a condition or essence that some people are living with, while others are not. In addition to this, it is not in fact a minority point of reference such that 10 percent of the society has, and after discovering their situation become enlightened to conform to their real and true nature.  In this essence, Greenberg applies the theory of Douglas and Durkheim to argue that homosexual identity actually is a social marker. Social classification leads to the creation of homosexual experience and has the evaluative structure, in which it is judged whether it is abnormal, approvable, or admirable (Greenberg 48).

In the early chapters, Greenberg brings out the typology or homosexual relations. The first three are in the primitive communities, and in this typology, kinship is central to the actual social structure. The fourth one is found in the old civilizations. Tran generational homosexuality is in primitive societies, and this is where homosexual relations occur between young males and tribal holy teachers or older men. In this case, homosexual is transitional, where it manifests itself in the launch into adulthood of a younger male and ends when he marries. Trans-class homosexuality occurs in the hierarchically organized ancient civilizations. It takes the form of older, free, or wealthy males related to the young, poor, weak, and slaves. Greenberg continues to say that the idea of a stable and lifelong homosexual identity is actually an invention from modern western societies. He also believes that homosexuality came much earlier during the middle age, which was brought out because of the requirement of celibacy for the priesthood, especially in the catholic churches (Greenberg 51).

In conclusion, transformation of homosexuality-based classifications portray the ways literary theory formulates the relationship between work and the author and develops significance in race and gender for the literary study, which is both from a stand point of thematic presence analysis within texts and biography of the author. For example in sonnet 20, it is less difficult for the readers to pose serious questions on whether or not the poets are homosexuals. Apart from this, the literary theories help readers to have knowledge on the matters affecting the society by using part of the literature to answer questions, which otherwise would not be answered without any literature work.


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