Compare and Contrast Essay on Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 138” and Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138, addressed to his lady love, is a lyric full of irony, where the poet puts forth the idea that although love should be rooted in trust, in reality the proclamation of lovers are nothing but lies and falsehoods. On the other hand, Kate Chopin’s “The Story of An Hour”, takes this idea a step further, when Chopin shows us, that while publicly a wife has to grieve over the death of her husband, in reality she may actually relish the new found freedom. Both these literary pieces show us, the inherent hypocrisy that lies in the relationship between men and women.
Shakespeare, in his sonnet, mocks at the idea of love, with lovers swearing undying faithfulness to each other, while all the time, they are deceiving one another. His lover makes pronouncements of love in “her false-speaking tongue”, yet, the poet has to accept these falsehoods as truisms, because he understands that “loves best habit is in seeming trust”. This piece is a masterful study of his mistress’ psychology, who leads him along the garden path with her deceitful demonstrations of affection. They are both even then content, in their charade of fidelity, because in this subterfuge they find a consolation which maybe is missing in their lives.
Kate Chopin’s story may be said to take off from where Shakespeare’s sonnet leaves us. Chopin’s story shows us how claustrophobic marriage can be. Sometimes relationships between husband and wife may not be all that it is made out to be. Louise Mallard’s reaction to the death of her husband, full of shock and grief, is the expected response. But when she closes the door of her room, Louise is more in a state of shocked joy for she realizes “the years to come that would belong to her absolutely.” The stifling bonds of her marriage are no longer tying her down and ‘freedom’ is within her grasp. Both the literary pieces bring out the hypocrisy that is seen in relationships. These pieces bring out the mendacity that surrounds us. The reality of love and marriage is markedly different from the appearance that all couples or lovers put on display for the world at large.
Although there is a similarity of themes in theses pieces, one factor which makes them differ is their conclusion. Shakespeare indulges his lover in falsehoods and allows himself to be entertained by the lover’s proclamations of love. He knows that he is being lied to, when she calls him young inspite of his advanced years. He is willing to be manipulated by her and both are performing for each others sakes, for he says “I lie with her and she with me”.
Kate Chopin’s work, on the other hand, ends on a tragic note. In her closed room, during that glorious one hour, between Kate being informed of her husband’s death and his sudden return, she had envisioned for herself a life unbound by the conventions of marriage. Although there are no direct implications of her marriage being an unhappy one, the relief at her husband’s demise is not without reason. We find her standing in front of her window and breathing deeply, the crisp, spring air, while her sister waits downstairs imagining her to be a grieving widow. It highlights her joy at being able to live a life on her terms. But all her joys are undone, when, as she is descending the steps from her room, the doorbell rings and her husband walks in the door, bringing her hopes crashing around her. The enormity of her need for freedom, her subsequent denial of it and her despair at being the “little woman” once again, was too much for her to bear. Although the doctor says that she died from “the joy that kills,” we know it was otherwise.
Shakespeare’s sonnet and Kate Chopin’s story, although dealing with the theme of deception and falsehood in love and marriage, differ in their approaches. While Shakespeare uses wry humor to deal with infidelity, for Chopin, the sham of her marriage is a truth, which she cannot even acknowledge. Shakespeare and his lover are living life for the moment, savoring each others lies, but Louise’s confrontation with the truth is literally heart wrenching, which eventually, kills her.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138, Line by line commentary.
Critical Analysis of “The Story of an Hour. www.journals.aol.com/…/SHALLAShortStories/entries/2006/01/29/critical-analysis-of-the-story-of-an-hour/