Study Guide

Sonnet 133 Calling Card

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Calling Card

Shout-Outs to Petrarchan Sonnets

Look, Shakespeare knows he didn't exactly invent the wheel when it comes to whipping up love poetry. He knows he's writing within a long, rich tradition and he's not afraid to borrow from it. Think about the "cruel" mistress in Sonnet 133. According to our speaker, she absolutely loves stomping all over the hearts of men. Plus, girlfriend knows how to stare a dude down and make him feel like garbage with that "cruel eye" of hers (5).

Guess what, though. Just about every sonnet sequence written between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries features a woman who gets off on torturing dudes. The stereotype was made popular by a fourteenth-century Italian poet named Francis Petrarch (a.k.a. the Mac Daddy of all love sonneteers). His poems were addressed to a hot girl named "Laura" who basically crushed the poet's heart on an hourly basis. Oh, yeah. Just like the mistress in Shakespeare's Sonnet 133, "Laura" could do some serious damage to the poet's heart with those eyes of hers, too. In Petrarch's Sonnet 197, he says "her eyes have the power to turn me to marble" (14). Yikes.

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