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Sonnet 20 Shakespeare

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Woman to Man, Man to Man, Love is Love

The poet's lover is "the master-mistress of (his) passion". He has the grace and features of a woman but is absent of the deviousness and charade that comes with female lovers; those crafty women with eyes "false in rolling", who change their moods and affections like chameleons. In Sonnet 20 William Shakespeare as the poet, displays powerful emotions that are indicative of a deep and sensual love of another man. Despite the fact that male friendships in the Renaissance were extensively affectionate, could this be a clear admission of Shakespeare's homosexuality or bisexuality? Or is it just merely a sonnet with no relevance to being autobiographical? This sonnet has a great deal of appeal for those seeking to dig to the root of Shakespeare's fervor and a great deal of appeal for that of emotional love verses physical love.

Sonnet 20 is the only sonnet in this 154 collection that has all feminine rhymes. Each line has a final unstressed syllable which gives the poem an accent. It is possible that these feminine rhymes serve to further stress the feminine aspects of the young man that the sonnet so distinctly praises. The word "woman" appears six times in the sonnet, again showing how important the aspects of femininity and womanliness are in this sonnet, both with their positive implications, such as "beauty" and "gentleness", as well as the more negative implications like "fickleness" or even "falseness".

The sonnet starts out by praising the lover by describing him as having "a woman's face with nature's own hand painted"; this is suggesting true natural beauty. By stating the masculine and the feminine with the word "master-mistress" there is some mystery here but it may imply that the young man evokes the love and devotion which would be due to a mistress, but that he is also in control, like that of a man. In the next two lines the poet has filled positive feminine features with negative aspects, "with shifting change" implies continually changing one's mind, thus leaving a feeling of uneasiness on the reader about the character of this lover. "An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling". The eyes of the young man are described as being bright to such an extent that they portray all their gaze falls on.



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