Shakespeare by Matthew Arnold

“Shakespeare” by Matthew Arnold, is his most anthologized poems. He has written a detailed analysis of the poem.

Shakespeare Matthew Arnold Book Cover
Shakespeare Matthew Arnold Book Cover

Shakespeare by Matthew Arnold Summary

Matthew Arnold was born in 1822 and was an acknowledged Victorian poet and critic who was well-acclaimed for his essays and poetry.

His poetry consisted of psychological themes like that of Sylvia Plath’s works and he was a character of maintaining transparency in his poetic expression.

Arnold was a person whose views on everything from culture to education were highly noteworthy.

“Shakespeare” is the most read and favoured sonnet of Arnold. William Shakespeare known as the greatest literary personality and dramatist of English Literature for his knowledge and wisdom is the favourite if all critics.

Arnold being highly impressed by Shakespeare’s deep-rooted mastery and expertise wrote this poem in his honour.

Shakespeare by Matthew Arnold Analysis

Arnold wrote this poem in the 1840s and by the time he wrote, Shakespeare already secured his position as the greatest English poet. Arnold speaks of the greatness and the glory he has achieved over the years in detail.

The poem is in the form of a sonnet to give a tribute to Shakespeare’s work who was famous for his sonnets and plays.

Shakespeare Sonnets
Shakespeare Sonnets

Though the poem is not based on the typical Shakespearean sonnet and is written in irregular rhyme the concept speaks on the set of natural speech. The poem is based on the physical locations and is in awe of the notable Shakespeare.

Arnold was a known figure in the Victorian era, and here the poem speaks of this in detail. The poem begins with words of praise for Shakespeare.

He has used the word “others” at the beginning of his poem by comparing Shakespeare with other poets of the generation. He has spoken of the morality he carried within.

Shakespeare’s uniqueness in his work, Arnold has spoken upright by speaking of other poets and writers of his era and said that their work can be questioned and scrutinized by all but on the other hand Shakespeare is a genius and he differs from everyone since he is “free” and so is his “art.”

The critics do speak about his work but instead of answering to that criticism and defending, he smiles stating his “art still” and let others write and speak about his effort by giving their own interpretation and meaning.

Arnold says that Shakespeare proficiency is “out-topping”, beyond the reach of us mortals and is one cannot question about them.

He compares Shakespeare’s majestic abilities and wisdom to that of a mountain top covered with clouds, touching the sky which is unreachable and unapproachable by mere humans like us.

He has further pointed out the mere difference between the “others” and Shakespeare by explaining that others can only see a glimpse of his work, “cloudy border”, from the outside but not be fully worthy enough to go deep down to his knowledge. He has spoken of the vastness of Shakespeare’s works.

Arnold further highlighted the difference of others with Shakespeare, by explaining, it is like the mountain whose feet meets and touches the sea and its crown reaches the “heavens”, the sky.

Shakespeare By Matthew Arnold Sketch
Shakespeare By Matthew Arnold Sketch

He adds by saying that Shakespeare’s imaginative abilities is like the stars which is sparkling and is like the sun’s beaming rays which shines so intensely and strong like the lofty mountain.

Arnold speaks of the human being Shakespeare was. The latter was a self-made man by educating himself completely on his own without going to any school or college for higher studies.

He is ever inspired by the self-teaching he has given himself and reached to this extent.

With the continuation of this Arnold said, being the handmade man he is, he still walked on the grounds of this Earth with common humans without any pride within.

The poet pays respect to the grounded individual Shakespeare was considered him as God.

Arnold becomes a little critical here and speaks of the worthy of Shakespeare and says that his work was never been appreciated or given that credit by us.

The poet says that common individuals have to endure all the pain and sorrows in life.

He explained that Shakespeare in spite of having deep sorrows in his personal life, he never let this get affected in his work and outshined in his creations by relating to common human beings, thus, sketching the pain that humankind has suffered.

Shakespeare Matthew Arnold Analysis
Shakespeare Matthew Arnold Analysis

Shakespeare by Matthew Arnold Conclusion

The poem speaks of the tone of how Arnold has paid a huge amount of respect to Shakespeare’s work and is clearly transparent in his expression for the praise of his work and that his chores make the readers appreciate the genius of Shakespeare.

The overall theme of the poem is calm, is in a natural speech and is powerful to convey to the mass of the poet’s worship and adoration for Shakespeare.

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