Lesson 13 Self-Identity:

Shelley and Whitman


Pre-reading question:

1) In general, to whom is the poem addressed?
2) What kind of change in tone or meaning is signalled by the "but" beginning line nine?
3) Vocabulary: untrimmed, line 8.
4) Vocabulary: ow'st This is a contraction for ownest, which might make it easier to find.
5) How would the speaker answer the question he poses in the first line? Why does he think this comparison would/would not work?

Post-reading questions:

1) How is the lover better than a summer's day?
2) What effect does the spondee in line three have? Why do you think Shakespeare chose not to use iambic there?
3) What does the final couplet have to say about the relationship between life and art? Do you think that the final couplet changes the focus of the poem at all?
4) What syllables are stressed in the final line of the poem? How do those stressed syllables reinforce the meanings of the line? In other words, how does form emphasize meaning in this case?

Part II: Moss Hart's "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day".

Pre-reading question:

1) Why do you think Hart did not use the sonnet form? Do you think there is any significance in the fact that his version of the poem has 13 lines?
2) What kind of rhyme scheme does the poem have? How does the rhyme and rhythm of the poem effect the tone of the poem?
3) What is the speaker's tone?
4) Vocabulary: What are "dog days" (line 1)? How do you think this choice of words adds to the humor of the poem?
5) Vocabulary: sub-let? What kind of images does this word lend to the poem?

Post-reading questions:

1) How does the final couplet of the poem reflect Shakespeare's final couplet?
2) Do you think Hart keeps the original feeling of the poem? Which would you rather be the subject of, Shakespeare's version or Hart's? (Not taking into account the status and reputation of the two poets!)

Part III: "My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun".

Pre-reading question:

1) How Shakespeare discusses his mistress changes subtly from quatrain to quatrain. What are some of the differences you can notice?
2) Vocabulary: mistress (line 1)? What is the meaning of the word to Shakespeare and his contemporaries?
3) Vocabulary: dun (line 3). What image does this word give us?
4) Vocabulary: damasked (line 5). How does this word add to the image?

Post-reading questions:

1) Jot down a description of the mistress based on the images we see in the poem.
2) What is the speaker thinking? Does he love this woman or not? The final couplet is telling.
3) Like "Shall I Compare Thee," this poem isn't totally about love. What is Shakespeare saying about art and artists in this poem?

Related Links:

The Complete Works of PB Shelley: http://www.bartleby.com/139/

The PB Shelley Resource Page: http://www.wam.umd.edu/~djb/shelley/home.html

Romantic Circles: The Shelley Chronology: http://www.rc.umd.edu/cstahmer/shelcron/

The Shelley-Keats House, Rome: http://heritage.virtualsite.co.uk/keats/index2.html

The Temple of Ramses II: http://sangha.net/messengers/Ramses-II.htm

The Walt Whitman Archive: http://www.iath.virginia.edu/whitman/

Walt Whitman, a great site: http://www.liglobal.com/walt/default2.shtml

American Academy of Poets Whitman site: http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=127&CFID=14915063&CFTOKEN=10220901

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