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Showing posts with label Sonnet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sonnet. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Poetry Study Aid : Mathew Arnold: Shakespeare

In the sonnet ‘Shakespeare’, Mathew Arnold sings the praises of Shakespeare, the greatest poet and the dramatist. Arnold commends and compliments the indeterminable and inexplicable immenseness of Shakespeare as poet and playwright which form the thematic essence of the poem. The deep and profound understanding of human minds and manners as well as intrinsically complex working of human feeling and emotions find apt and accurate expression in Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s greatness and grandeur is not for an age but for all ages; his poems and plays appeal to all in all ages. Shakespeare is quite the Bard.

Extract 1
Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask- thou smilest and art still
Out-topping all knowledge. For the loftiest hill,
Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making heaven of heavens his dwelling place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil’d searching of mortality; 

1. Who are “Others’ referred to in the first line of the extract? What is the contrast expressed in the first line of the extract?
Mathew Arnold refers to poets other than Shakespeare here and carries out a comparative evaluation of Shakespeare and other poets in the first line of the poem.
Others or other poets yield themselves to the inquiry and appraisal of the readers and critics. These poets comply with the norms and traditions of the conventional writing. Shakespeare, nevertheless, abides by no such prescripts but follows his heart and very often follows the road less travelled. Thus Shakespeare stands tall among the other poets free of the customary scrutiny and criticism. Shakespeare’s poetics is beyond the wonted way that the readers and critics follow.
2. Explain: We ask and ask- thou smilest and art still
The readers and critics have numerous questions for Shakespeare and seek clarifications on many aspects of his poetic work and persistently pursue these doubts and enquiries. However, Shakespeare remains detached and silent and merely smiles enigmatically. The true understanding of Shakespeare seems to be beyond the grasp of all the mortals.
3. What do you understand by the phrase ’out-topping knowledge”?
Out-topping = going over the limit or boundaries. The knowledge that is limitless and stretches beyond the boundaries of human comprehension.
4. Comment on the metaphor of the mountain that Arnold engages to evoke the greatness of Shakespeare.
Arnold compares Shakespeare’s grandeur to the top a mountain whose crown is so high that we can view only its indistinct and clouded fringe. Here, Arnold stresses that in spite of numerous attempts by numerous schools of critics as well as the countless admiring readers of Shakespeare through many ages, none has been able to fully fathom the profoundness of Shakespeare’s thoughts and successfully scale the pinnacle of Shakespeare’s genius.
Shakespeare is the loftiest hill whereas , in comparison, the other poets are the other lesser mountains. Just as these smaller mountains can never hope to match up with the lofty height of the hill, the other poets cannot even dream of matching the greatness and genius of Shakespeare.
We cannot distinctly view the true height of this lofty hill as its pinnacle is hazy because of the clouds surround it. Similarly, the grandeur and genius of Shakespeare can only be imagined, not distinctly determined, as his genius is beyond the comprehension of the mortals. All mortal attempts to assess and analyze Shakespeare fall futile because of the vastitude of Shakespearean vista.
5. Clarify: Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty
The lofty hill reveals (uncrowns) its majestic summit to the lofty stars. Likewise, Shakespearean summit of success is revealed only to the astral figures.
The mountain is personified here. The mountain is a colossal figure with its feet in the sea and the crown among the skies(heaven of heavens). And Shakespeare, beyond doubt, is truly a titan in comparison of the other poets.
6. Annotate the phrase “the foil’d searching of mortality”. 
All human endeavours to comprehend the greatness of Shakespeare’s genius are defeated. All mortal attempts to review and scrutinize Shakespeare fall futile because of the vastness of Shakespearean expanse.

The Sonnet : Infinite Riches In a Little Room

The Sonnet
The Sonnet is a lyrical poem of 14 lines with a definite rhyme scheme. There are two types of sonnets in general the Petrarchan Sonnet and the English Sonnet popularly known as the Shakespearean Sonnet as Shakespearean was an ardent practitioner of the Sonnet form.
The Petrarchan sonnet (with the rhyme scheme abba, abba, cde, cde) has two divisions: the first eight lines called the octave and the remaining six lines called the sestet.  The octave is further divided into two sections of four lines each known as the quatrains.  The Sonneteer, usually, presents a problem or an argument in the octave and then tries to resolve the problem or argument in the sestet.
The Shakespearean Sonnet follows a different pattern (with the rhyme scheme abba, cdcd, efef, gg) with three quatrains and the final couplet. Love in its myriad forms was the trendiest theme of the sonnets.
At times the poets experimented with the form of the sonnet and Mathew Arnold’s sonnet ‘Shakespeare’ is a typical example of this. The basic Petrarchan structure is modified in this sonnet with the turning point coming in the line 11 instead in the line 9 as in Petrarch. Arnold employs the rhyme scheme abba, acca, de, de, ff: the octave remains divided into two quatrains but the sestet is divided into three rhyming couplets. This modification enables Arnold to basically maintain the Shakespearean structure in a way; may be as a tribute to the great exponent of the Sonnet form- the Bard.