Themes and Variations in Shakespeare's Sonnets

By J B Leishman | Go to book overview

5
Shakespeare and Chaucer: Tragedy and
the Whole Truth

In Shakespeare’s plays there are many attractive and sympathetic presentations of both maturity and old age, and it is only in deliberately comic, or semi-comic, creations, such as Juliet’s nurse, Shallow, Verges, Pandarus and (to some extent) Polonius, that the characteristic weaknesses of age predominate. But in the Sonnets, although he says much about the compensations of love and friendship for the evils of life, he says nothing whatever about the compensations which maturity and age are often supposed to bring with them for the loss of youth. There is not a word about the ‘mellowness’, ‘maturity’, ‘experience’, ‘balance’, and so forth, which come, or should come, with advancing years, and not a word about the inexperience, immaturity, rashness, excessive hopes and excessive despairs of youth. And this raises a further question: despite Socrates’s success (or apparent success, for they had gone to sleep before

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