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UNDERSTANDING SHAKESPEARE: THE SONNETS

UNDERSTANDING SHAKESPEARE: THE SONNETS

Robert A. Albano

MERCURYE PRESS
Los Angeles

UNDERSTANDING SHAKESPEARE: THE SONNETS

Robert A. Albano

First Printing: July 2010

All Rights Reserved 2010 by Robert A. Albano The text presented in this volume appeared earlier as part of Lectures on Early English Literature (2009). No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher.

MERCURYE PRESS
Los Angeles

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3

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Other Books by Robert A. Albano Middle English Historiography Lectures on Early English Literature Lectures on British Neoclassic Literature Understanding Shakespeare's Tragedies Understanding the Poetry of William Wordsworth

Robert Albano is an Associate Professor of English Literature in Taiwan.

NOTE: All lines numbers referred to in this text are consistent with those found in The Norton Shakespeare (Stephen Greenblatt, editor).

CHAPTER 1
SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS TO THE YOUNG MAN BACKGROUND ON WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE William Shakespeare is, according to almost everybody, the greatest writer England has produced. Some people (especially if they are English) will even argue that Shakespeare is the greatest writer that the world has produced. But no matter how one may rank Shakespeare in the pantheon (or group) of the world's best authors, a person cannot help but marvel at the creativity, the insight, and the genius of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was born in 1564. This is the same year when Christopher Marlowe was born (and when the astronomer Galileo was born). Shakespeare is also the younger contemporary of Spenser (born in 1552) and Sidney (born in 1554). William Shakespeare was both a great playwright and a great poet. His plays generally fall into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. Occasionally, critics add a fourth category, romances, to define or categorize a few of the plays (like The Tempest). In some cases these categories overlap. For example, both Richard III and Julius Caesar could be labeled as either tragedies or histories. However, the former is labeled a history
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play and the latter is labeled a tragedy. The reason for this is that the history plays are generally those that concern English history (but not, for example, Roman history). Shakespeare's career as a playwright falls, for the most part, into two distinct decades: 1590's 1600's Comedies and Histories Tragedies

But the student should also note that Shakespeare did write some comedies after 1600 and some tragedies before 1600. Shakespeare's tragedies, especially, have been translated into numerous languages. And every student of English literature should be familiar with these plays: Romeo and Juliet Julius Caesar Hamlet Othello King Lear Macbeth Anthony and Cleopatra 1595 1599 1600-01 1603-04 1604-05 1606 1606

In some cases the exact date of composition is unknown. Shakespeare's plays were not published when he wrote them, but historical records do usually indicate when the plays were first performed in London.
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There is very little information about Shakespeare's early life. He grew up in the English countryside and received a typical rudimentary or simple education for that time. Such an education would include the study of the Latin language as well as the reading of numerous works of Greek and Roman literature, many of which were available in English translations in the late 16th century. Sometime before 1590 Shakespeare moved to London. Although he may have acted in a few minor roles on the stage, Shakespeare predominantly made his living in the business end of the theater (like a stage manager or producer). Even a great writer like William Shakespeare could not earn a sufficient income by his writing alone. In Shakespeare's time, actors always performed together in acting troupes. An actor in one troupe would practically never perform with the actors of another troupe. Like individual writers, an acting troupe might also seek the patronage of a wealthy aristocrat for financial support. By the early 1600's Shakespeare's troupe became so widely known and so respected that they received the patronage of the highest aristocrat in the land, King James I. From that time on, Shakespeare's acting troupe became known as the King's Men. Shakespeare, however, was actually financially successful before that time. In 1597 he bought New Place, a fine and expensive house in his country hometown of Stratford-on-Avon. Nevertheless, Shakespeare continued to write plays
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and work in London until approximately 1610, at which time he retired. Shakespeare died in 1616.

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THE SONNETS In addition to being considered the greatest playwright of England, Shakespeare was also the greatest poet of his day. His sonnets, especially, form one of the most intriguing collections of poems from the Renaissance. Like Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, Shakespeare's collection of 154 poems forms a sonnet cycle. Written in the early 1590's (but not published until 1609), Shakespeare's sonnets, like other cycles, concern love and focus on the attitudes and feelings of the speaker. However, Shakespeare's cycle is far different from Petrarch's or Sidney's poetry. Shakespeare creatively approached the cycle from a new and unusual perspective. Generally speaking, Shakespeare's Sonnets differ from the previous cycles in four distinct ways: (1) The object of the male speaker's affections is a young man, not a lady, in 126 of the 154 poems. The young man thus becomes the object of praise, love, and devotion just as Stella had been in Sidney's poems or Laura had been in Petrarch's poems. The love suggested in these poems is not necessarily homosexual. The love between two males suggests a bond of friendship, like that between two very close brothers. Such a Platonic love does not exclude either man from having relationships with females.
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(2) In the last 26 sonnets, the object of affection is a dark lady. In traditional Renaissance poetry, the beauteous lady is presented as blond-haired and blue-eyed. Moreover, she is typically virtuous and pure. Shakespeare's lady not only has dark hair and dark eyes, but she is also sensuous and sexually promiscuous (or active). Thus, lust (rather than virtue) becomes a more common motif in these sonnets. (3) In the sonnets by Petrarch and Sidney, the focus is primarily on the speaker as an unrequited lover. And so the poems reflect the up-and-down emotions that the speaker experiences as he goes from hope to melancholy or from delight to disgust. There is no unrequited love in Shakespeare's sonnets, and the poems do not reflect the see-saw (the up-and-down) emotions of the speaker. However, Shakespeare's sonnets do indicate several conflicts within the speaker. (4) There is, perhaps, more of a story (although it is rather vague) in Shakespeare's Sonnets than in other sonnet cycles.

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As the Norton editors also indicate, the sonnets also contain several key or important motifs: Sonnets 1-17 (1) Celebration of the Young Man's Beauty (2) The Urging of the Young Man to Marry and to pass on his beauty to his children Sonnets 18-126 (3) Time as a Transient and Destructive Force (4) Friendship and Love (5) The Permanence of Poetry Sonnets 127-154 (6) The Dark Lady as a Temptation, or an Object of Lust (7) The Dark Lady as an Object of Degradation Other motifs also appear in the sonnets as well.

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The student should also note some of the key poetic features of the Sonnets. (1) The most often used kinds of figurative language are metaphors and similes. Shakespeare's metaphors are often quite complex. (2) Structurally, many of the sonnets can be divided between the first three quatrains and the couplet. The couplet then forms the conclusion to the poem. (3) The sonnets may also be structurally divided between the octet and sestet. In such cases, the first eight lines may set up a situation, but the final six lines move in an opposite direction. (4) The rhythm is consistently iambic pentameter. And (5) the rhyme scheme is usually ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. With the first sonnet the editors have added an important footnote. In many early critical studies on the Sonnets, critics and historians have attempted to identify the true identities of the young man and the dark lady. However, no genuine evidence has really proven the identities of these characters. Although Shakespeare probably did base these characters on real-life models that he personally knew, the characters themselves may be largely or predominantly fictional. The situations that Shakespeare describes in these poems would also then be fictional occurrences.

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"SONNET 1" In the very first sonnet the speaker asks the young man to have children so that his beauty will be passed on to succeeding generations. In this way the speaker praises the beauty of the young man. The structure of this poem does not exactly follow the general pattern noted above. The reader should note the use of the word but at the beginning of the second quatrain (line 5). This word (or the word yet) often indicates a shift in direction. In this case, the poem is shifting from a general statement in the first quatrain to a more specific situation described in the other ten lines of the sonnet. In the first quatrain the speaker tells how people in general ("we") desire that beauty continues. The student should remember that the word fair during the Renaissance means beautiful, and so "fairest" (in line 1) means the most beautiful. The first line thus indicates that people desire to see the most beautiful creations (people, animals, or even plants) increase or reproduce. In the second line, the speaker likens the idea of beauty to a rose. A person may plant the seeds of a beautiful rose bush so that the beauty will continue in succeeding generations. So, when the original rose ("the riper") withers and dies, the new generation of roses produced from its seeds ("his tender heir") will reflect the same remarkable beauty ("his memory"). Similarly, the beauty of a human being can be passed down to his or her children.
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The more specific instance of beauty, which is the subject matter of the second quatrain, is, of course, the young man. The word thou (meaning you) refers to the young man. The speaker is directly addressing the young man and is complaining that the young man is married ("contracted") to his own bright eyes (line 5). In other words, the young man is in love with himself. He only likes to look at himself and is not looking at any particular young lady. The line suggests the Greek myth of Narcissus, a story of beautiful young man who saw his own reflection in a pool of water and fell in love with himself. The metaphor in the next line (line 6) can be interpreted in perhaps several different ways. The word flame suggests, most likely, the idea of passion. The young man is feeding his passions or desires for love on himself ("self-substantial fuel"). By expressing the idea in this manner, the speaker is suggesting that eventually the young man will burn himself out. In other words, he is wasting himself needlessly. The idea of waste is emphasized in the next line. The young man has an "abundance" of passion. But once that passion is entirely burnt away, there will be a "famine" (an emptiness) of passion -- there will be no passion left. Of course, the denotative (or literal) meanings of the words also apply. Why starve (why experience a famine) when there is plenty of food (an abundance) available? Such an act would be foolhardy, and the speaker is suggesting that the young man's actions in not finding a mate
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and not having children are foolish. The last line of the quatrain (line 8) emphasizes the harm that the young man is bringing on himself. The young man is an enemy or "foe" to himself. He is being cruel to himself. Here the speaker is indirectly suggesting that the young man would find life (or passion) more rewarding if he would experience passion with a woman. Then his passion could grow and not burn itself out. In the third quatrain the speaker is more direct. But the words do suggest the passage of time. The speaker calls the young man "the world's fresh ornament" (line 9) and the herald (or messenger) of springtime (line 10). The speaker is emphasizing the youth of the young man. The word fresh suggests newness. The young man is currently like a new decoration or ornament. But new decorations eventually become old and faded and tarnished. They lose their shine, their luster, and their appeal. Similarly, the young man may be like the beginning of springtime. But eventually spring turns into summer, and the fall and winter seasons are not far behind. The "gaudy" spring, which suggests the luxuriant growth of flowers and leaves at that season, eventually becomes a dry and barren season, fall. The leaves come off the trees and the flowers all disappear. The speaker, then, is telling the young man that his youth and beauty will not last. Eventually they will disappear as well. Words often have more than one meaning, and poets often use a word to mean more than one
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thing at the same time. Such is true with the word content in this poem (line 11). The word can suggests contents (what something contains), but it can also suggest the idea of being content (or being happy). The line means then both of the following: (1) The young man is burying his potential (his contents) for being a father in his own youth (his "own bud"). He is, in other words, wasting his youth and youthful potential. (2) The young man is also throwing away his chance for happiness (of being content) by not finding a woman to share his passion with. At the end of the quatrain (line 12), the poet directly tells the young man that he is being wasteful by being so stingy ("niggarding") and so selfish with his natural gifts and potential. In the final couplet the speaker claims that the young man cheats not only himself, but the entire world, by not having a child. Playing with language, Shakespeare sets off the idea of famine that he introduced earlier (in line 7) with the idea of gluttony (in line 13). The speaker calls the young man a glutton in the sense that the young man is keeping all of his potential (for having a child) to himself just as a glutton keeps all of the food for himself. Of course, the idea of gluttony has several connotations. As the student may recall, gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. In a sense, then, the speaker is suggesting that the young man's selfishness is also an
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act of sin. Furthermore, the depiction of gluttons in that time also suggests a disgusting, foul, and dirty appearance and manner. So, the speaker is also expressing his disgust with the young man's actions. In the final line of the sonnet, the speaker tells the young man that to pass on his beauty to his children is a debt that he owes to the world. The world (or nature or God) gave him beauty, and so he should not be selfish with it. Once again, the speaker emphasizes the idea of time with the word grave. The young man will die eventually. And if he dies without having a child, he will die the death of a "glutton" -- the death of a selfish and sinful and foul creature. Throughout this poem the poet uses death imagery: decease (line 3), buriest (line 11), and grave (line 14). The speaker is an older man (as will be revealed in later sonnets), and he has far more experience to understand how quickly times passes and how soon death comes for all of us. In fact, in some of the later sonnets (especially 71, 73, and 74), the speaker will directly comment on his own approaching death and the effect it may have upon the young man. In this poem, then, three themes are united: beauty, love, and death. The speaker's love for the young man urges him to convince the young man to do what is best for himself and for others because time and death will come far sooner than he expects it.

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A FEW COMMENTS ON "SONNET 3" The same motif begun in the first sonnet continues in "Sonnet 3." The speaker urges the young man to marry and have children in order to pass on his beauty. In this poem, though, the speaker emphasizes the joys that having children may bring the young man as he gets older. Perhaps the most striking metaphor in this poem is the one that occurs at the beginning of the third quatrain (line 9): "thou art thy mother's glass." The word glass here means mirror. The beauty of the young man is a reflection of the beauty his own mother once possessed when she was younger. The speaker is thereby telling the young man that he preserves the memory of his mother's beauty. And if he were to have children, then they would reflect his own beauty as well. The idea of the passage of time is also emphasized in this sonnet. The speaker tells the young man that when "age" (line 11) and "wrinkles" (line 12) come to him, he will have the beauty of his child to remember his own beauty when he was younger (his "golden time"). The sonnet ends in a manner similar to the first, with the imagery of death and the idea of waste (if the young man does not have a child).

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"SONNET 12" The motif of the transience of beauty and the quick passage of time also appears in "Sonnet 12." Once again the speaker urges the young man to have children in order to preserve or save his beauty from the destructive forces of time. In order to understand the structure of this poem, the reader should pay attention to the first word of each quatrain. Both the first and the second quatrain begin with the word when. But the third quatrain begins with the word then. The third quatrain marks the shift in the poem (beginning on line 9). And so the poem is clearly divided into an octet, which establishes the speaker's general observations about the passage of time, and a sestet, wherein the speaker comments more specifically on beauty and how it, too, fades and disappears over time. In the first quatrain the speaker presents four images that indicate the passage of time. (1) The clock is the most obvious indicator of the passage of time. (2) But the rotation of the earth as the daylight quickly turns to night also indicates the passage of time. (3) A beautiful flower, like a violet, that has dried and withered ("past prime" meaning past its moment of beauty and splendor) also suggests time passing. However, with this third image, the speaker is also introducing the idea that something that was once beautiful will lose that beauty. And, so, the poet is, in a sense, foreshadowing the theme of the sestet.
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(4) The motif of the transience of beauty develops one step further with the fourth image, as now the speaker connects that idea to humans. Dark or black hair ("sable curls") can turn gray or white or silver. Human hair can also lose its luster and beauty. With the second quatrain, the speaker presents two more images that also suggest the passage of time. (1) The first image is that of the tree. A tree that once provided shade and comfort to animals ("the herd") or people during the hot summer season eventually loses its leaves in the fall. With this image the speaker is not only suggesting that time passes quickly. He is also suggesting that, with the passage of time, an object (or person) loses its value. It may even become useless. (2) The second image is that of plants or crops that have been harvested and bundled together and carted away in a wagon. The edges of wheat that are dried and harvested often form a white, bristly fringe, which the speaker refers to as a "beard." Of course, as the student may guess, the word beard here is also meant to connect the image to humans (or specifically to the young man). An old man, after all, may also grow a "white and bristly beard." He also will lose his greenness, his youth. The most important word attached to this image is bier (in line 8). The speaker states that the crops are hauled away not on a wagon, but on a "bier." The word bier generally refers to a stand on which a corpse (a dead body) or a coffin is placed. The poet has inserted this death imagery purposely. Once again, the speaker (and the poet)
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wishes to suggest that with the passage of time will come death. This motif also foreshadows the message of the following sestet. In the third quatrain the speaker comments that if everything must grow old and wither, then the same must be true of beauty as well. The word beauty can mean the abstract quality of beauty. But the word is also a synonym for the young man. He is beauty, and he too will eventually die. His beauty will "forsake" (line 11) or leave him even if he is like a god of beauty. In the couplet, the final two lines, the poet uses personification. The poet personifies Time as a figure that is carrying a "scythe" (line 13). A scythe is a farming tool that has a long, sharp blade attached to a long wooden handle. The farmer uses it to cut down crops, like wheat. In this poem, Time uses its scythe to cut down humans who are past their prime, who have grown too old. Traditionally in literature the dark figure carrying a scythe represents not Time, but Death. Of course, Shakespeare intentionally wants to connect the passage of time to death with this one image. In the couplet the speaker also offers a solution to the problem he has presented, the problem of time being a destructive force. Thus, it would also be correct to view the structure of this sonnet as being divided between (1) the three quatrains, which introduce a problem, and (2) the couplet, which offers a solution.
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The speaker concludes his thoughts by telling the young man that there is only one defense, only one way to protect oneself from the destructive power of time. That way, that solution, is to "breed" (to have children). A man cannot stop Time from coming for him, but that person can be "brave" when the moment comes if he has passed on his beauty to his children.

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A FEW COMMENTS ON "SONNET 15" The destructive power of time on youth and beauty is also a motif in "Sonnet 15." In this sonnet, though, the speaker establishes the context of the beauty of the young man within the grander scheme of life. Life (as the metaphor in the third line suggests) is just a huge stage, and the stars (mentioned in line 4) control the shows or performances upon that stage. Here Shakespeare is expressing a belief in destiny. People may or may not act bravely in their lives, but even the bravest acts of men fade "out of memory" (line 8). Life itself is but an "inconstant stay," a fickle existence of good and bad luck. In other words, one cannot control what happens in life. One has to accept the good with the bad. Therefore, the speaker values his relationship with the young man. Moreover, he values the beauty of the young man as being one of those random acts of goodness that has somehow entered his own life. Nevertheless, the speaker regrets that this beauty will eventually fade or decay over a period of time (the bad aspect of life that is counteracting the good). So, the speaker feels that he is at war with time. He must preserve the beauty of the young man in his poetry before time eventually steals that beauty away from the young man forever. The poet cannot alter destiny itself, but perhaps he can alter its affects. He can make sure that the young man's beauty does not fade "out of memory."
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"SONNET 18" In "Sonnet 12" the speaker suggests that the only solution to the destructive forces of time is to have children. But in "Sonnet 18" the speaker presents a second solution to the same problem. "Sonnet 18" is probably the most famous of Shakespeare's sonnets. Although the poem does present the speaker's praise of beauty for the young man, the poem also presents love and the praise of beauty in such a general fashion that the poem could be applied to any man wishing to comment on the beauty of the lady he adores. At this point the student may already be able to determine the structure of the poem with a quick glance at the lines. The perceptive reader will note that the third quatrain begins with the word but (in line 9). Thus, a logical assumption is that the shift in the poem occurs there; and so the sonnet can be divided between the octet and the sestet. The sonnet begins with a question. The speaker is asking himself if he should compare the young man to a summer's day. The student should remember that a typical convention in love poetry is to use similes, to compare the beauty of the lady to the beauties of nature. As the poem progresses, we can see that the speaker feels that the answer to his question is "no" because he feels that the beauty of the young man is superior to the beauty of a summer's day. The comparisons, then, actually
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become contrasts. The following chart lists the contrasts made throughout the octet:

A Summer's Day Lovely Temperate (Calm) Occasional Rough Winds Lasts Only a Short Time Occasionally Too Hot ("eye of heaven" is the sun) Sometimes Cloudy Objects of Beauty Fade ("fair" means beautiful object)

The Young Man More Lovely More Temperate (Calmer) No Rough Winds (always gentle) Lasts for a Long Time Never Hot (or hottempered) Never Cloudy (moody) Beauty Remains

In these seven ways, then, the young man is superior to a summer's day. In this way, the speaker is proclaiming that the beauty of the young man surpasses all of the beauty of nature. In a way, Shakespeare is also surpassing other love poets. Other love poets may compare the beauty of their subjects (their ladies) to nature. But by stating that the beauty of his subject (the young man) is superior to nature, the poet is also stating that the beauty of the young man surpasses the beauty of any of the ladies who were compared to nature.
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The last two lines of the octet, though, present a paradox. The speaker notes that the beauty of an object, like a flower, on a summer's day will eventually decline or lose it beauty. But with that statement he is suggesting that the beauty of the young man will not fade or disappear. How can this be? In several of the earlier sonnets the speaker warned the young man that he better have children because his beauty will fade. But now he is saying that his beauty will not fade. The speaker presents this paradox even more directly in the first line of the sestet: But thy eternal summer shall not fade. (line 9) Eternal does mean forever, for all time; and the word summer here is used comparatively to suggest the beauty of the young man. The next two lines emphasize this same idea. The speaker asserts that the young man will never lose the beauty (the "fair") that he possesses. And Death (personified) will never be able to brag or boast that he has taken the young man. The paradox is explained at the end of the quatrain (line 12). The beauty of the young man will survive and will live forever in "eternal lines." Lines refer to lines of poetry. The beauty of the young man is captured, like a photograph, in the lines of poetry written by William Shakespeare. The young man's beauty becomes immortal by "Sonnet 18." The word this in the last line of the sestet refers to this
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particular poem, to "Sonnet 18" itself. The speaker states that the immortality of the young man's beauty depends upon three conditions: (1) as long as men are alive ("can breathe") (2) as long as they have the ability to "see" (and to read the poem) (3) as long as the sonnet itself exists (or "lives") As long as these three conditions are met, then the sonnet will give eternal life to the beauty of the young man. William Shakespeare, at the end of this sonnet, is voicing a conventional idea about poetry: poetry is immortal. As our editors comment in a footnote, even during the Classical Age poets suggested that the poetry is permanent. Thus, Shakespeare is not vainly boasting here. Rather, he is asserting his agreement with the idea that poetry and art should last as long as humanity itself lasts. And since this poem has lasted for over 400 years, that notion appears to be true.

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"SONNET 20" In "Sonnet 20" the goal of the speaker is to praise the young man's beauty. Of course, throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance poets have always praised the beauty of women. In a sense, beauty was always a special quality that women could possess but men could not. Shakespeare essentially agrees with that premise, that idea. And so, in this sonnet, he comments that the young man's beauty is so great that his beauty is like that belonging to a woman. He felt that there was no point in comparing the young man to other men since men do not possess beauty. Only by comparing the young man to the most beautiful of women can the speaker provide the reader with some clue as to just how beautiful the young man is. The sonnet begins with the personification of Nature. Nature here is described as a creation goddess, responsible for creating not just plants and animals, but human beings as well. And, of course, Nature is responsible for the creation of the young man. In the first line the speaker states that Nature gave a woman's face to the young man. The speaker uses the word painted to suggest that Nature is an artist and that the young man is her masterpiece. The speaker also calls the young man "the master mistress of my passion" (in line 2). The word master refers to a male; the word mistress refers to a female. The speaker means this as a compliment: the young man
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has the best qualities of each gender. This line, in a sense, introduces the comparison that follows between the young man and beautiful women. The speaker wants to assert that the young man is superior to women (similar to the technique he use in "Sonnet 18" when he compared the young man to a summer's day). A chart may also help here to outline the comparisons and contrasts in this sonnet:
A Beautiful Woman A Gentle Heart Inconstant in Love ("shifting change" in heart) Bright Eyes Fickle ("rolling eyes") The Young Man A Gentle Heart Constant in Love Brighter Eyes Not Fickle

The speaker is thereby indicating that the young man has the positive qualities of a woman but none of her negative qualities. In the last three lines of the octet, the speaker describes the qualities of the young man's beauty that no other man or woman possesses. (1) Any object he looks upon turns golden (line 6). In other words, just by looking at an object or another person, he enriches that object or person. He makes that object or person seem nobler or better or more meaningful than it actually is. This is quite assuredly how the speaker must feel when he is in the presence of the young man. (2) The young man's skin coloring (or "hue") is such that it seems the perfect blend of all other colors. And (3) any man or woman who gazes upon him is
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deeply amazed by his beauty. His beauty even affects their very souls. This sonnet also has a structure with a division between the octet and sestet. In the octet the speaker praises the beauty of the young man and compares and contrasts him to beautiful women. In the sestet the speaker explains how Nature decided to make her creation a man instead of a woman. The sestet begins (in line 9) with the speaker declaring that Nature had originally intended her creation to be a woman. But then Nature was so overcome by the beauty of her own creation that she fell in love ("fell a-doting") with it. So, Nature made one "addition" or change to her creation: she turned it into a man. This is great praise of beauty indeed. The speaker is saying that the young man is so beautiful that even the creation goddess fell in love with him. Of course, for the speaker, who is male, the addition or change made by Nature was not a good change for him: "to my purpose nothing" (line 12). The speaker is stating that a beautiful man does nothing for him sexually. Although he appreciates the young man's beauty and loves the young man platonically, he regrets that this particular creation by Nature was not a woman. The speaker, however, good-naturedly accepts the situation, as he comments in the couplet. Since Nature decided to create the young man for women's sexual pleasure (line 13), the speaker will accept having a platonic love with the young man
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even though various women will enjoy him sexually (as "their treasure").

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CHAPTER 2
SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS TO THE YOUNG MAN SONNETS ON THE POWER OF LOVE: 29 AND 30 Of all of the sonnets that Shakespeare wrote, "Sonnet 29" is the most traditional or conventional. It is a sonnet that seems quite similar to the content and emotion of the sonnets by Francis Petrarch or even some of the sonnets by Sir Philip Sidney. In this sonnet the speaker declares that the power of his love for the young man allows him to continue and be strong even during the worst of times. In regards to its structure, this sonnet can be divided into two parts: the octet and the sestet. The word yet (in line 9) clearly announces the shift in direction. In the octet, the speaker moans and weeps over his misfortunes. But in the sestet, the speaker explains how his thoughts for the young man cheer him up. In the first quatrain the speaker begins by stating that he is "in disgrace" with "Fortune." Life has not been good to him. He has had bad luck. The speaker is also in disgrace in "men's eyes." Other men criticize him or speak badly about him. Thus, the speaker feels "all alone." He feels like an "outcast," like he does not belong in the company of
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other men. He cries to God, but he feels that God cannot hear him ("deaf heaven"). He feels that his prayers are useless, that they are a waste of time ("bootless"). So, he curses himself and his misfortune (or "fate"). In the second quatrain, the speaker compares himself to other men. Some men seem to have greater prospects or opportunities for the future. They have more "hope" (line 5). Other men might be more attractive: they have more pleasing physical features (line 6). And some men have many friends (also in line 6). Some men have greater skills or talents or "art" (line 7) while other men may have greater intellect or insight into life ("scope" in line 7). Thus, the speaker is miserable. He has a low sense of self worth. He does not feel that he is as good or worthwhile as anybody else is. He is in the midst of a severe depression or even despair. Even those activities that he enjoyed in the past can bring him no pleasure ("contented least"). There is almost nothing or no one that can make him happy. Yet, there is one person who can save him from his despair: the young man. In the sestet, the speaker states that at times, when he gets to a point where he actually hates himself ("despising" himself), then he thinks about the young man ("thee"). Then his emotions and attitudes change completely. The speaker uses the simile of the lark, the bird that sings happily at sunrise. The imagery associated with this simile suggests the blackness of night turning into the
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brightness of day. The speaker's soul transforms from the darkness of his misery to the light of his joy in loving the young man. In contrast to the useless or futile cries to God that the speaker mentions in the octet, the speaker is now able to sing "hymns" (or religious songs) to God (line 12). The speaker no longer feels that his prayers are unanswered. The speaker now has hope. In the couplet, the final two lines of the poem, the speaker confidently and happily exclaims that he would rather be himself, as a person who is able to feel love for the young man, than to be the greatest king in the world. He is stating that having love is a greater gift than having riches or political power or prestige. Only love has the power to enrich the soul and bring light and hope to someone even in the darkest of times. As mentioned, the sonnet is quite similar to those by Francis Petrarch. This sonnet shows the speaker moving from one extreme emotion to another. But unlike the sonnets by Petrarch, the speaker's love for the young man is not unrequited. The love is genuine and true. The love is reciprocated (or returned). So, the theme of "Sonnet 29" is not identical to those by Petrarch. The speaker in Petrarch's sonnets never experiences a reciprocated love. Whatever hopes he has are false hopes: they will not come true. In Shakespeare's poem, the speaker -- or the poet -- is declaring the power that true love brings to those who possess it.
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The same theme is repeated in "Sonnet 30." But in this poem the reader should note that the division comes after the three quatrains and before the couplet. The word but (in line 13) indicates the shift.

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SONNETS ON THE PERMANENCE OF POETRY: 55, 60, AND 65 In "Sonnet 18" Shakespeare declares, following the tradition set by many poets during the Classical Age, that poetry is immortal. The beauty of the young man will live forever because the poetry that describes the young man's beauty will last forever. Shakespeare returns to the idea that poetry will outlive the ravages of time despite mankind's destructive ways in several sonnets: 55, 60, and 65. In "Sonnet 55" the speaker asserts that poetry ("rhyme") will last longer than statues made of marble or monuments made of gold or brass. Thus, the beauty of the young man will last longer in a poem than it would if it were copied into a statue or onto an engraving of some sort. Stone statues become worn away over a long period of time. And during times of war (personified by Mars -- in line 7 -- the Roman god of war) many statues and other forms of art become destroyed. When a statue or a painting becomes destroyed, the beauty of that particular piece of art is lost forever. But if a piece of paper containing a poem is destroyed, the countless hundreds or thousands of copies still remain. Thus, the beauty in a poem is immortal. Its contents can also be recopied or reprinted, and the copy is as perfect as the original. A copy of a statue or painting, on the other hand, is just a copy. Something of the original becomes lost in the process.
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This particular sonnet ends with a reference to Judgment Day or Doomsday ("doom" in line 12). In Christian teaching, there is a belief that eventually the world will be destroyed in a terrible fire -- at which time the forces of good will defeat the forces of evil (the idea of Armageddon). Also at this time all of mankind will have to face their Maker, God. God will judge each and every one of us and pronounce His judgement (or doom). God will decide who will be saved and live in Heaven and who will be condemned to spend eternity in Hell. The speaker -as well as Shakespeare -- believes that his poem and all poetry will survive until that time. Only the forces of Heaven, only God, through the destruction of the Earth, has the ability to bring to an end the existence of any given poem. In "Sonnet 60" Shakespeare continues the same theme. In this poem Time is once again personified and carrying a "scythe" (line 12). Time is once again described as a destructive force and is associated with death. "Sonnet 65" also contributes to the same theme. Similar to "Sonnet 55," this poem compares fragile beauty ("summer's honey" in line 5) to objects that are seemingly much stronger and sturdier: rocks (in line 7) and gates made of steel (in line 8). But rocks can wear away (like the marble statues of the earlier sonnet) and steel gates can erode (like the gilded monuments of the earlier sonnet). But beauty outlives the rocks and steel gates when it is preserved in a poem.
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The personification of Time also appears in this poem in the third quatrain. However, Time is characterized differently. In this poem Time owns a secret chest where he keeps all of his treasures. His "best jewel" (a metaphor) is the young man. Even though the beautiful jewel (the young man) leaves the chest of Time for a brief period (when he is born), eventually Time will find his best jewel and return it to his chest (when the young man dies). Of course, the theme is the same. Even the most beautiful of objects and people are eventually destroyed over time.

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SONNETS ON THE DEATH OF THE SPEAKER: 71, 73, AND 74 The relative ages of the speaker and the young man are emphasized in three sonnets: 71, 73, and 74. The speaker is a much older man and contemplates his own death. In doing so, he wonders what effect his death will have on the young man. In "Sonnet 71" the speaker pleas with the young man not to mourn, not to be sad, once the speaker is dead. The speaker wants the young man to get on with his life. He does not want the young man to remain in sadness for a long period of time. He even tells the young man not to read his poems (in the third quatrain) if, by doing so, that causes even greater grief for the young man. The last line of the quatrain reinforces the message: But let your love even with my life decay. (line 12) In other words, the speaker is telling the young man to forget the speaker and his love for the speaker. The speaker does not want the young man to be miserable. The shift in this poem occurs in the final couplet. There is a second reason the young man should not moan or be miserable -- at least not in front of other people. Other people might mock him or make fun of him -- and the speaker -- when they hear about the love that existed between the two of
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them. The word wise (in line 13) is used ironically. The world is not wise at all. The people of the world can never understand the depth and meaning of the love that existed between the speaker and the young man. The speaker not only hopes that the young man will not persist in his misery and sadness, but he also wants to save the young man from the ridicule of society. The majority of people in society can be cruel -- the speaker is implying -- and most would not understand what true love is. The theme concerning the death of the speaker continues into "Sonnet 73." However, in this sonnet, the speaker dwells more on the present than on the future. In the final couplet, the speaker suggests that, in contemplating the eventual loss of their love that will come with the speaker's death, the love that they now share becomes "more strong." In other words, knowing that their love will eventually end, the speaker and the young man should treasure the time that they have with each other. They value the love they have for each other precisely because their time together is so short. The moment is rare and fleeting, but wonderful. Knowing this thereby increases the love they feel for one another. "Sonnet 74" adds to the death theme by focusing on the elements of memory and soul. In this poem the speaker emphasizes the two parts of his existence: body and soul (or spirit). He notes that when he is dead, only a part of his being -- his body - is gone. The young man should not be sad over that. The body, after all, is just a meal for the worms (line
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10). The body is just a weak vessel that easily falls to the "knife" of a "coward" (line 11). The coward, obviously, suggests the personification of Time (or Death). And the knife suggests the image of the scythe mentioned in earlier sonnets. The point, though, is that the body is essentially worthless. It is not something that should be mourned. In the final two lines, the couplet, the speaker places greater emphasis on the spirit of his being. He tells the young man that "the worth of that [his body] is that [his spirit] which it [his body] contains" (line 13). In other words, only his spirit has any value. The body has none. The speaker ends by telling the young man that "that [his spirit] is this [his sonnet]" (line 14). In other words, his spirit resides or is reflected in his poetry. Since the young man has his poems, the young man also has the spirit of the speaker. Thus, the young man should be glad that he still has the best part, the noblest part, of the speaker. Although this poem uses the traditional Christian dichotomy (the division into two separate or opposite parts) of seeing a human being as containing both a body and soul, the poem itself is not actually expressing a Christian belief. The "spirit" that the speaker describes in this poem is not an actual soul that drifts upward to Heaven. Rather, it is a memory of the thoughts and feelings of the poet. The thoughts and feelings of the poet are captured in the poem. In that sense, then, the spirit of the poet is captured by the poem. Thus, the poem is his spirit.
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THE FAREWELL SONNET: 87 "Sonnet 87" also bears some similarities to the great sonnet cycles of the past. The poem deals with the unworthiness of the speaker to deserve the love of the person he adores. So, the speaker bids the young man "farewell" or "good-bye." The shift in the sonnet occurs between the three quatrains and the couplet. Yet, throughout the entire poem, the speaker does not change his opinion that he is unworthy of the young man's love. In the first quatrain, the speaker states that the young man is too precious, too valuable ("dear") to be loved (or possessed) by someone like the speaker. In fact, the speaker believes that the young man will eventually realize his own value or worth ("estimate"), at which time he will leave the speaker. The speaker then uses the language of business -"charter" and "bonds" -- as metaphors for their relationship. The young man is like a valuable piece of land or property that the speaker was leasing for a short period of time, but now the speaker feels that the lease has expired. He no longer has any legal right to be on the property: he no longer deserves a relationship with the young man. In the second quatrain the speaker emphasizes his unworthiness. He describes the young man's love as a "fair" (meaning wonderful) "gift." However, he feels that a good reason ("cause") for the young man to give him such a precious gift is
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missing ("wanting"). The speaker is stating that he has done nothing to earn or deserve such a special love. In the third quatrain, the speaker refers to the beginning of their relationship. He feels that when the young man first expressed any signs of love toward him, the young man did not know his "own worth" (line 9) or value at the time. Or, as the speaker suggests, the young man did not realize at that time how unworthy the speaker was for such a gift. Now that time has passed, the speaker believes and fears that the young man will change his mind about the speaker -- the young man will show "better judgment" (line 12). In the final couplet the speaker still believes that he is unworthy of the young man's love and still thinks that the young man will leave him. However, he adds that his experience with the young man has been like a marvelous dream (another metaphor). He says that the experience was like dreaming that he was a king. However, upon waking, he finds and regrets that such is not the case ("no such matter"), that he is not really a king. Metaphorically, he is stating his feeling that his relationship will not and cannot continue. This sonnet captures the feeling of uncertainty, a feeling that can and does occur in many relationships.

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TWO SONNETS ON ABSENCE: 97 AND 98 In both "Sonnet 97" and "Sonnet 98" the speaker speaks about a time when the young man went away from him for some reason. The poems chronicle the effects of the young man's absence on the speaker. Both poems also use seasonal imagery to suggest the feelings of the speaker. In the first sonnet, the imagery of fall and winter reflects the theme. In the second of these sonnets, the poet uses the season of spring. The poet uses a simile in the beginning of "Sonnet 97" to describe the feeling of absence. The absence of the young man is "like a winter" to the speaker. But the actual time of the young man's absence occurred during the summer (line 5). However, since winter is the coldest and darkest season of the year, that season better reflects the emotions of the speaker while the young man is away. The "bareness" (line 4) of the winter season, when trees are barren of leaves and when many plants have withered and turned brown, also reflects the speaker's emotions. The emptiness of the landscape reflects the emptiness that he feels within his own heart. The fact that the young man's absence actually occurs during the summer also causes the sad speaker to ponder his situation. In the second quatrain the speaker adds that the harvest of the crops, as autumn (or fall) approaches, does not do anything to cheer his mood. The poet uses a complex
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metaphor: the richness of the springtime when plants and crops grow big and plentiful is compared to a pregnant woman. The expression "big with rich increase" (in line 6) could refer to the fertile land where crops are grown or a pregnant woman. But the woman in this metaphor is a widow. Her husband has died and her child is both the orphan and the "unfathered fruit" (since his father has died). The birth of the child, then, is not a happy time for the widow because she will have to struggle to support her child. Similarly, the growth (or birth) of all of the fruit and other crops that the speaker sees during the summer is not a happy time for him. Just as the widow is without her husband, the speaker is without the young man. At the end of the third quatrain, the speaker adds that the pleasures of the summer will only arrive when the young man himself appears (line 11). As he moves into the couplet (from line 12 to 13), the speaker presents two more metaphors: the birds and the leaves. The birds are mute. They are not singing the cheerful songs that birds usually sing during the summer. Or, the speaker adds, if they do sing, it is a dull and sad song because they know that winter will be coming soon. Of course, the speaker is referring to himself. He can barely speak at all because he is so sad. And when he does speak, he does so in a sad and gloomy voice. Similarly, the speaker is like the leaves. Normally green in summer, the speaker sees the leaves as "pale." They are white, without color. The speaker also feels pale without
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the young man. His life is colorless without the young man's presence. The saddening effect of the young man's absence upon the speaker also becomes the subject matter in "Sonnet 98." In this poem the joys and beauties of the springtime are set as a contrast to the speaker's own joyless mood. Personification is one of the key poetic features of this poem. April appears as a youthful and exuberant (or cheerful) clown or jester. He is dressed in a motley fashion ("proud-pied"): that is, he is wearing a costume of many bright and marvelous colors. The Roman God Saturn personifies the idea of melancholy. Saturn (the Roman equivalent to the Greek god named Cronus) was once the king of the gods. However, Jupiter (the Roman equivalent to the Greek god Zeus), the son of Saturn, defeated Saturn and forced him to give up the throne. Thus, in this poem, Saturn is the sad god, the god of melancholy. In this sonnet, however, April is so full of joy and cheer that he causes even Saturn to laugh and dance (line 4). In other words, during the springtime, the beauty of nature and the loveliness of the season will brighten or cheer up even the saddest or most melancholy of individuals. There is, though, one person who is sadder than the personification of melancholy itself: the speaker. He is sadder than sadness itself. None of the joys of springtime have any effect on him. Neither the cheerful songs ("lays") of the birds nor
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the fragrant perfume of the flowers can convince the speaker to tell a "summer's story" (line 7). That is, the speaker has no desire to speak in a light or entertaining or humorous way. He is too heavy, too sad. In the third quatrain the speaker looks at the beauty of two flowers, the lily and the rose; but their beauty only reminds him of the greater beauty of the young man. The speaker states such flowers are "figures of delight drawn after you [the young man]." In other words, the flowers are a lesser symbol of beauty that attempt to emulate or copy the greater beauty of the young man. For the speaker, such lesser beauty has no appeal for him. His thoughts are on greater beauty. His thoughts are on the young man. In the couplet, the speaker returns to a concept that he introduced in the earlier sonnet: even though the season is actually a mild and pleasant one, it seems like winter to him. The speaker compares (in a simile) the beauties of springtime to the shadow of the young man. The shadow of the young man is a dark and insubstantial copy of the young man's beauty. Thus, the speaker is implying that the beauties of nature and springtime are dark and insubstantial: they are cold and meaningless to the speaker. But those are all he has to look at or "play" with. In other words, he cannot play. And he cannot feel any joy.

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A SONNET ABOUT PREFIGURATION: 106 Prefiguration means that a person or object or symbol that appeared early in time represents or stands for a person or object or symbol that came later in time. For Christians, the prophets of the Old Testament, such as Joseph or Moses, were prefigurations of their Savior, Jesus Christ, the central figure of the New Testament. In other words, the greatness and virtue of the prophets were only lesser signs or indications of the superior greatness and virtue that Jesus Christ would exhibit. Thus, in a sense, Christians believed that the appearance of the prophets was for the purpose of preparing the world for the arrival of Jesus Christ. The idea of prefiguration plays a dominant role in "Sonnet 106." However, in this poem Shakespeare is not concerned with religious prefiguration. Rather, he is concerned with the prefiguration of beauty. Like several of the other earlier sonnets, the purpose of this one is to praise the beauty of the young man. In the first quatrain the speaker is examining all of the literature ("the chronicle") of the past. The word chronicle here (in line 1) refers to non-fictional and fictional literature. But it especially refers to poetry about love. In this literature the speaker is particularly interested in reading the descriptions of the most beautiful ("fairest") people ("wights"),
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whether they are female ("ladies") or male ("knights"). As he reads this literature that contains descriptions of beauty, the speaker is reminded (in the second quatrain) of the beauty of the young man. In fact, to him it even seems like the writers and poets of long ago were actually writing about the young man. The point that these descriptions prefigure the beauty of the young man is clearly stated in the third quatrain. The speaker feels that these older writers were poet-prophets. In writing about the beauty of this lady or that man, they were actually writing about the beauty of the young man, whom they saw as if in a vision. These poets looked, the speaker states, with "divining eyes" (line 11). That is, they were able to see into the future. However, because they could only see the young man in a vision, but not in person, they could not capture fully the greatness of the young man's beauty in their poetry: They had not still enough your worth to sing. (line 12) The speaker, then, is actually saying in this sonnet that all of the best descriptions of beauty ever written in literature are indications of the young man's beauty. However, such descriptions are incomplete or inadequate. The beauty of the young man far surpasses even the best of those descriptions.
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In the final lines, the couplet, the speaker admits that even if those writers could have seen the real young man (instead of just a vision of him), their poetic skills still would not have been great enough to recreate the beauty of the young man. For, the speaker adds, those who are alive and can view the young man with their wondering or amazed eyes lack the words (or "tongues") to praise his beauty.

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EXPERIMENTING WITH LOVE: "SONNET 110" "Sonnet 110" might be labeled as a confession poem. In it the speaker admits to or confesses having loved people other than the young man. However, the more important point that the poem makes is that the speaker pledges to be true to the young man forever after. The speaker vows to be constant. This sonnet also has a structure with the division coming between the octet and the sestet. In the octet, the speaker reflects on his experiences or experiments with love in the past. In the sestet, the speaker pledges his fidelity in the present and for the future. In the first quatrain, the speaker admits to having acted like a fool. The word motley (in line 2) refers a multi-colored costume worn by a court jester or a clown. The speaker is declaring that his actions in loving others have been foolish. The speaker also admits that in loving others, he has "gored" or wounded his "own thoughts" (line 3). The speaker means that he has acted against his own better judgment and his own reason. He had allowed his passions to become stronger than his mind (the reason versus emotion conflict). In other words, the speaker now regrets those actions. He additionally admits or confesses that in loving others, he has sold his love cheaply (also in line 3). The word dear means precious or valuable. So, "what is most dear" is his love. By saying that he gave his love away
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cheaply, the speaker is admitting that he received very little in return. The experience in loving someone else just was not worth the price he paid. At the end of this quatrain, the speaker reveals that he has repeated these actions of loving others on numerous occasions. The expression "old offenses" suggests that he has been behaving like he did when he was younger. As a young man he had loved many people without thinking about it -- without being rational. But now, even though he is an older man, he has been repeating that same foolish behavior with "new affections" or new loves. The speaker continues to admit his mistakes in the second quatrain, but adds that something worthwhile has come from his experiences. The quatrain begins with the speaker stating that by loving other people, he was avoiding the "truth" (line 5). He knew deep within himself that he should not have been with these others. But he had avoided this truth: he allowed his passions to cloud his judgment. But (and the speaker uses the word but in the middle of line 6) the speaker adds that these experiences, these mistakes ("blenches"), made him realize, deep within his heart, that his true and only love was for the young man. He states that the experiences "gave my love another youth" (line 7). He means that his heart became revitalized. He finally realized the truth. The speaker hopes that the young man believes him. And the speaker even swears "by all above," suggesting both God and Heaven, that what he is saying is the truth. The quatrain ends with the
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speaker concluding that these other experiences, these mistakes in love (or "worse essays" -- essays means attempts), only proved to the speaker that the young man is his "best of love." In the third quatrain, the speaker pledges that his experiences are over. He will never again try to love someone else ("newer proof"). Instead, he will be like a prisoner (suggested by the word "confined" in line 12) to the young man, who is referred to as the "older friend" and a "god in love." In the closing lines, the couplet, the speaker asks the young man to "welcome" him. He is asking the young man to accept his mistakes and believe that his love from that time on will belong only to the young man.

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THE LAST OF THE YOUNG MAN SONNETS: 126 The sonnets to the young man end with "Sonnet 126." In this poem the speaker makes a final plea for the young man to realize that his youth and beauty, although they may seem to last for a long time, cannot last forever. In this final sonnet the poet also repeats the personification of two figures: Time and Nature. Once again the poet depicts Time as a destructive force that will obliterate the youth and beauty of the young man. And once again the poet depicts Nature as the creation goddess who is still in love with her favorite creation, the young man. In the first quatrain the speaker suggests that the young man, even though he has grown older over the past few years, still appears youthful and beautiful. Thus, the speaker describes the young man as holding power over time (in lines 1-2). One of the props or pieces of equipment that Time carries is the "fickle glass." The word glass refers to a mirror here. But, like all mirrors, it is fickle because it does not keep the image that it contained in the past. As we grow older, the image that we see in the mirror changes. In this sonnet, though, the speaker is suggesting that the image of the young man has not changed in the years that he has known him. In growing older ("waning"), the young man has actually become more beautiful ("grown") while his
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"lovers," especially the speaker, are "withering" or looking much older. Nature appears in the second quatrain. She is the protective force that tries to "pluck" the young man away from destructive Time. Nature is trying to prove that she is more powerful than Time. The shift in this poem occurs in the third quatrain (line 9). The speaker warns the young man to fear Nature, for even Nature cannot defeat Time. In other words, although the beauty of the young man may have lasted much longer than it does for most other people, it eventually will experience the ravages of time. The young man will grow old and lose his beauty. Nature is described as someone who has taken out a loan (suggested by the word "audit") but must eventually pay that loan back. The metaphor indicates that even though Nature borrowed from Time to keep the young man looking beautiful, eventually she will have to pay Time back by giving the young man to Time. Thus, the young man will no longer have any power over time. The situation will be reversed. Time will have power over the young man, and he will be a young man no longer. Although the speaker does not directly state it, he seems to be implying in this poem that the young man should face the inevitable and find a way to preserve his beauty. In other words, as he had done most explicitly in the first sonnet, the speaker is urging the young man once again to have children. There is no couplet in this poem. This sonnet is only twelve lines long. The poet, perhaps, wished
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to express the brevity or shortness of time by the brevity of his own poem.

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A DEFINITION OF LOVE: 116 The purpose of Shakespeare's sonnet cycle is not only to praise the beauty of the young man. The purpose is also to express the great love that the speaker feels for this young man. The greatest poetry throughout time has always dealt with love in one form or another. And one of the finest poems that expresses the meaning of love is "Sonnet 116." For the most part, this sonnet defines love. In terms of its structure, the shift in the poem comes between the third quatrain and the couplet. However, all fourteen lines are used to express the depth and significance of a true and heartfelt love. In the first quatrain, the speaker suggests that there should be no obstacles, problems, or "impediments" in a relationship where both parties are "true." The word true here implies both fidelity and honesty. It also hints at a kind of purity in the relationship. The speaker is not talking about a conventional marriage. He is talking about a "marriage of minds," a spiritual connection between the souls of the two individuals. This is a higher love, and such a love does not suffer or end when some obstacle gets in the way. The word alteration (in line 3) also suggests an obstacle or setback that may occur in the relationship. Even though problems or alterations may occur at times in the relationship, the nature of the relationship itself does not alter. Both parties remain true. Both still love one another. The speaker repeats the idea a third time (in line 4) with
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the word remover, which, like the words impediments and alteration above, also indicates an obstacle or problem that may occur in the relationship. The poet purposefully uses repetition to convey the idea that problems do occur often during the course of any relationship. However, despite all of those problems, a true love will remain constant. The speaker uses two metaphors in the second quatrain to express the idea of constancy in a true love. The first is a "seamark" (as our editors interpret the word mark) or a landmark that is observable from the sea. The reader might envision a lighthouse, one of those strong and tall and permanent structures that sends forth a beam of light to guide sailors to safety even in the worst of seastorms or "tempests." The lighthouse is a fixture that the sailors can always rely on. They know is has not moved, not changed, or not altered. The second metaphor used to express the constancy of love is a star, such as the North Star (Polaris). The North Star has been extremely important to sailors for centuries. Without the North Star or other stars to guide it, a ship (or "bark") could easily become lost at sea during the night. Because the stars are constant, because they are "ever-fixed" in the sky, sailors know that they can rely on them. The speaker is suggesting, then, that true love is also fixed forever. It is permanent. In the last line of the quatrain, the speaker adds that although the position of a star may be charted -- although its "highth can "be taken" -- no
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one can calculate its worth or value. Similarly, the value of a true love is also without measure. The idea of constancy in love is also the focus of the third quatrain, but in these lines the poet uses personification to emphasize his point. Both Time and Love are personified. But even though Time is personified as in the earlier sonnets, as a destructive figure carrying its scythe or sickle, Love (signifying true love) is the stronger of the two figures. By stating that Love is not the "fool" (in line 9) or victim of time, the speaker is suggesting that no matter how much time passes, true love never fades or diminishes. True love always remains strong. The speaker admits that Time can take away the "rosy [or red] lips and cheeks" of the lovers. In other words, the two lovers, over a period of time, will grow old and lose their youthful glow. But, the speaker asserts that, despite losing the attractiveness of their youth, the two lovers will continue to love each other just as strongly as they did in their youth. Their love continues even though their looks do not. At the end of the quatrain the speaker comments that true love lasts until the day of "doom" -- until Dooms Day or Judgment Day. In other words, it lasts forever. In the couplet the speaker, as a poet, inserts himself (note the pronouns me and I) into his definition. The shift in the poem occurs here. In the first twelve lines the poet defines true love. In the last two lines, he asserts the validity (the reasonableness or logic) of his claim. Essentially, the speaker is stating that if he is wrong, then he has
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never written anything in his life (which is untrue) and no man throughout the history of time has ever experienced love (which is also untrue). To put it simply, the speaker is stating that he is not wrong. True love is everything that he has said it is. True love is constant.

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CHAPTER 3
SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS ON THE DARK LADY THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SONNETS ON THE DARK LADY AND THE SONNETS ON THE YOUNG MAN In "Sonnet 127" Shakespeare shifts topics. He moves away from the Young Man as the subject of his poems and to the Dark Lady. Although the change in subject may seem abrupt to the reader, at least four characteristics unite the two parts of the sequence. (1) In terms of theme, both the Young Man sonnets and the Dark Lady sonnets break away from the conventions or standards of typical sonnet cycles. We can call this, then, the theme on sonnet conventions. The Young Man sonnets break two conventions: (a) the speaker adores a male instead of a female, and (b) a male is an object of great or surpassing beauty. The Dark Lady sonnets also break two conventions: (a) the lady is dark, not fair (meaning she does not have light skin and blond hair); and (b) the lady is promiscuous or sexual, rather than virtuous.

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(2) In terms of plot, the two sections of the cycle also contribute to the overall "story" being told about an older man (the speaker) who is at first involved with a younger man but later also begins a relationship with a female (the dark lady). In many relationships, it is hardly unusual for one member of the couple to have an affair. Such affairs happen all of the time. In the extraordinary relationship between the speaker and the young man, which does not seem to be sexual, both the speaker and the young man have other relationships. That one of these other relationships becomes more than casual, then, is not a surprise. The speaker, therefore, has become involved in a rather odd love triangle. His love is clearly for the Young Man, but he cannot deny himself the sexual pleasure that he finds in his relationship with the Dark Lady. We have, then, a story with the speaker as the protagonist who is involved in an internal conflict (the conflict of man versus himself). The speaker is struggling between the higher Platonic love that he shares with the Young Man and the earthly sexual love that he shares with the Dark Lady. (3) In terms of structure, the Young Man is included directly in one of the sonnets on the Dark Lady ("Sonnet 144," to be discussed later). Thus, Shakespeare unites the two parts of his sequence with this one particular poem.
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(4) Such unity also works on a thematic level. Shakespeare's entire sonnet cycle deals with the topic of love. This theme on love explores the two different facets or types of love: (1) the higher, spiritual type of love and (2) the lower or earthly physical type of love. Thus, the second part of the sequence complements the first part. Both parts of the cycle are necessary to complete Shakespeare's exploration and analysis of love.

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"SONNET 127" In the first sonnet on the Dark Lady, "Sonnet 127," the speaker immediately launches into his complaint about sonnet conventions or, to be more exact, about attitudes regarding a standard of beauty. During the Renaissance, as noted several times previously, beauty in women was connected to having fair features: light skin, blue eyes, blond hair. Like the poets of earlier sonnet cycles, Shakespeare's purpose in this poem is to praise the beauty of the lady he adores. However, his lady is dark. She has dark skin, black eyes, and black hair. Shakespeare's argument, though, is that her beauty surpasses the beauty of all other women, including the fair ones. In regards to the structure, this sonnet has two parts: an octet (the first eight lines) and a sestet. In the octet, the speaker makes some general comments about beauty and coloring. In the sestet, he makes specific comments about the Dark Lady herself. In the first quatrain (the first four lines), the speaker states that most poets or people did not consider dark features ("black") to be beautiful ("fair") in "the old age." Here "the old age" does not refer to a time very long ago, for we know that the convention in placing value on light or fair features is a feature of the Renaissance. So "old age" here actually refers to the time, to the very moment, before the Dark Lady came into the speaker's life. In the second line of the quatrain, the speaker adds that
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anything or anybody that was dark could not be called an object of beauty in that "old age." The speaker informs us that such thinking will no longer be valid any longer. Using personification of abstract ideas, the speaker states that Beauty is the parent or mother of Black. And now Black has inherited all of the features or qualities of Beauty. In other words, from now on, whenever people think about someone who is beautiful, they will immediately think of someone who has dark features (is "black"). In the last line of the first quatrain and continuing throughout the second quatrain, the speaker continues his idea of the personification of Beauty. In these lines the speaker suggests that all fair (light-featured) women who in the past were called the children or heirs of Beauty are illegitimate or "bastard" children who bring "shame" to the name of Beauty. The speaker explains that these fair women are not really beautiful at all because they have to apply make-up or cosmetics over their ugly or unattractive features ("the foul") to makes themselves appear beautiful ("fairing"). The speaker concludes this part of the poem by stating that one of two situations must be true. Either (1) Beauty has been "profaned" and "slandered" -- in other words, people have lied about her -- because these fair or blond children are not really her children, or (2) if they really are her illegitimate children, then Beauty should live "in disgrace." She should be ashamed at having such ugly children.
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Now that the speaker has established the idea that dark features are really the only true beauty, he then moves specifically to his lady in the sestet (the last six lines). The speaker emphasizes the darkness of the lady's dark features: her eyebrows (and hair) and her eyes are "raven black," they are extremely black. The speaker then adds a metaphor to describe the appearance of her eyes. He says they look like "mourners," like individuals dressed in black clothing appropriate for a funeral. They mourn or feel pity for those who are beautiful even though they do not have "fair" (or light) features. Such dark beauties deserve pity, the speaker probably feels, because they have been slighted or undervalued by others for so many years. Once again the poet uses personification to emphasize his point. The appearance of such dark beauties slanders or hurts the reputation of Creation, who is responsible for the false value or esteem (or worth) given to fair (or light-featured) women. In other words, such creatures (fair women, who are products of creation) do not deserve the value that people or society gives to them. In the couplet, the final two lines of the poem, the poet concludes that even though the eyes of his lady are mourning, they make her woe or sadness seem even more beautiful. Everyone who looks at her dark eyes agrees that the Dark Lady is the very picture of beauty.

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SOME COMMENTS ON "SONNET 128" "Sonnet 128" is a more traditional sonnet. In fact, the subject here does not even have to be the Dark Lady. The speaker could be talking about any beautiful woman. In this poem a little story is told. The speaker is watching the woman he adores play the piano, and he becomes envious or jealous of the piano keys since she is moving her fingers over them. He describes her touching the keys as kisses: the piano keys get to kiss her fingertips. The speaker wishes that his lips, instead of the piano keys, were the ones kissing the lady's fingers. The speaker somewhat comically concludes that since the piano keys get her fingers to kiss, then he should get her lips for the same purpose. A reader might also note the metaphor in the first line. The speaker refers to his lady as "my music." She is the music of his soul. She is the one who transports him to such grand and eloquent feelings. The idea of envying an inanimate object in this poem may remind the reader of one of the sonnets in Astrophil and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney. In that sonnet cycle (in Sonnet 45, to be exact) Astrophil envies a story that causes Stella to feel pity and cry. Just as the speaker in Shakespeare's poem wishes to trade places with the piano keys, Astrophil wishes that he could be the story that makes Stella weep.
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"SONNET 129" Very soon in the second part of the sonnet cycle, the reader discovers that the "love" that the speaker feels for the Dark Lady is a far different kind of emotion than the love that he feels for the Young Man. In the third sonnet -- only the third sonnet -- in this section, the speaker moves away from praising and adoring the lady to the topic of lust. Lust, you may recall, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins that all Christians during the Middle Ages would try to avoid. In Shakespeare's poem the speaker worries not about what may happen to his soul in the afterlife. Rather, he worries about what spiritual (or, perhaps, psychological) damage his lust is causing him during his own earthly existence. "Sonnet 129," then, is a warning about the dangers of lust. In terms of structure, the division in this poem comes between the three quatrains and the couplet. In the first three quatrains, the speaker defines lust and explains the effects that it has on humans. In the final couplet he adds one additional problem that is associated with lust. In the first quatrain the speaker begins by explaining that when a man acts on his lust ("lust in action") and has a strictly sexual relationship, that man is wasting his spirit in an act of shame. However, if a man does not act upon his lust ("till action"), then that man is capable of many dangerous actions: perjury, murder, violence, cruelty, or deceit. The speaker is implying that man is capable of the
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most vile or sinful of actions in order to satisfy his lust. So, whether a man acts on his lust or not, the lust will harm him greatly. In the second quatrain the speaker returns to the idea of the man who acts on his lust. Here, the speaker is largely discussing the consequences of such actions. As soon as the man has finished his lustful act, as soon as he is done having any sexual activity, the man will come to regret and despise his own actions. The speaker explains that the feelings of the man, both before and after the sexual act, are beyond or past "reason." The reader should remember that during the Renaissance many Christians believed that Reason was a gift from God that allowed people to control their Emotions (including lust). However, Shakespeare seems to be implying that on occasion an emotion such as lust can take control over a person's ability to reason. Shakespeare does not seem to agree that one's reason can always control one's emotion. The speaker comments that before a man acts on his lust, he will pursue (or hunt -- line 6) the object of his lust in an unreasonable way. But after he has acted on his lust, the man will hate the lust, and perhaps himself, beyond reason. Also in the second quatrain, the speaker uses the metaphor of a fish swallowing bait. The fish may think that the worm or other bait dangling at the end of the hook is the tastiest meal to be found. But once he finds the hook pulled in his jaw, he will realize what a big mistake he has made. But it will
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be too late. Similarly, the man who feels lust cannot help himself. He acts quickly and unthinkingly, but then it is too late. Unlike the fish, though, which loses its life, the man loses something even more valuable: his sanity. For, as the speaker relates, lust makes a man "mad." In the third quatrain the speaker develops the theme of madness as it relates to lust. Whether the man is seeking to satisfy his lust, is engaging in an act of lust, or has completed an act of lust, that man will be "mad" in an "extreme" way. Although the moment of sexual activity may bring pleasure ("a bliss in proof"), afterwards the man will feel bad or sad ("a very woe"). In other words, the sexual act itself does not satisfy the man. That action will only seem like "a dream" to him. It will not seem real. And, so, he will not be satisfied. In the closing lines of the poem, in the couplet, the speaker makes an astute observation about life. Although every man knows that lust is dangerous and that lust leads to madness, no man knows how to avoid (or "to shun") feeling lust. Anybody can become a victim to that emotion called lust. And even though one may enjoy the brief moment of sexual activity ("the heaven"), that person knows the pain and the suffering (the "hell") that will be the result of such activity. People know it is wrong. They know it is dangerous. But they do it anyway. With this poem the speaker appears to be establishing a distinct difference between his feeling
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for the Young Man -- a feeling of love -- and his feeling for the Dark Lady -- a feeling of lust. The distinction, the difference, is also the difference between spirit and earth, between the high and the low. Yet, at the same time, by bringing these two seemingly distinct emotions into the same sonnet cycle, Shakespeare appears to commenting about how the two are invariably linked together. We are both earth and spirit, and we feel both lust and love.

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"SONNET 130" One of the most highly regarded and popular poems in Shakespeare's sonnet cycle is "Sonnet 130." In this unusual poem Shakespeare argues against the convention of using similes of nature to describe the beauty of the lady. As mentioned on prior occasions, a convention of love poetry for many, many years was the use of similes. Writers creating love poems for their ladies would often compare their beauty to the beauty found in nature. Her eyes are as bright as the sun. Her lips are as red as roses. Even by the 1590's such similes had become cliches. They were just used too often. So, Shakespeare wrote "Sonnet 130" as a reaction against the use of similes in this fashion. Actually, Shakespeare accomplishes two purposes in this poem: (1) He mocks or ridicules the convention of using similes, and (2) he praises the beauty of the Dark Lady. The structure of this poem relies on the division between the three quatrains and the couplet. In the quatrains (lines 1-12) Shakespeare contrasts the beauty of nature to the Dark Lady (the first purpose), but in the couplet he praises her beauty (the second purpose). In the first quatrain Shakespeare begins by negating or by invalidating the most common of similes -- the comparison of a lady's eyes to the sun. Shakespeare is, in essence, saying let us be practical. Let us be real. No one's eyes are as bright as the sun. Such a comparison is an exaggeration. Such an
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exaggeration does not truly capture the beauty of the lady. Similarly, a lady's lips can never be as red as fine deep-red coral. Of course, the lady in this poem is the Dark Lady; so some of the standard or conventional similes would not apply in any case. A lady's skin is never actually as white as freshly fallen snow, but the Dark Lady's skin is the color of "dun," a very plain brown color. At this point, the reader might think that the speaker is criticizing the appearance of the Lady. Of course, this is not the case, as the rest of the poem will reveal. At the end of the quatrain Shakespeare ridicules the simile of comparing a lady's hair to fine silken strands (or "wires") of gold. Of course, the Dark Lady has black hair, so the speaker would have to then call her hair "black wires." Here the image is definitely an unattractive one. Of course, the point here is not to discredit the beauty of the lady. Instead, the point is to discredit the use of such a simile. A comparison of hair to fine golden wires is a foolish comparison, the poet seems to be saying. In the second quatrain the speaker discredits or mocks the comparison of a lady's skin color in her cheeks to red and white roses (in lines 5-6) and the comparison of a lady's breath to the smell of a flowery or fragrant perfume (in lines 7-8). The alert reader should note the use of the word "reeks" to describe the lady's breath. The word reeks does suggest an unpleasant or even bad odor. Shakespeare is providing some naturalism here. The poet is bringing the reader down to earth -- to reality.
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Two more similes complete the list in the third quatrain. Music is more pleasing than the voice of his lady, the speaker admits. And the speaker also adds that his lady walks solidly on the ground. She does not float above the air like a goddess. In the final lines, the couplet, however, the speaker praises her beauty. He claims that his lady is as beautiful and special or "rare" as any woman may be or as any object in nature may be. He does not need to falsely compare the lady to images in nature because such comparisons would be untrue. They would be lies. For the speaker, the beauty of his lady matches (or is equal to) the beauty of nature even though her beauty is of a much different kind. In the footnote, our editors suggest that the word "rare" can also mean extraordinary. The beauty of the lady is extraordinary. It is wonderful. For the speaker, the lady's beauty is enough. It does not need to be compared to anything else.

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A COMMENT ON "SONNET 135" During the Renaissance poets enjoyed playing with language and making use of the many different meanings of a single word. They would do this to create a complexity of meanings within a single line or two of poetry. Shakespeare employs the use of puns in "Sonnet 135" for a comic effect as the speaker begs the Dark Lady to accept him as a lover. In this poem the speaker puns on the word will, which can mean (1) desires or wishes; but it also quite frequently refers to (2) sexual desire. Of course, the word Will (with a capital W) is a nickname for William. The speaker is also called Will. However, even though Shakespeare uses a version of his own name for the speaker, such usage does not necessarily prove that the speaker is not a fictional character. In any event, by asking the lady to have her will, the speaker is asking her (1) to fulfill her wishes or dreams, (2) to be with him, and (3) to have sex with him. All three meanings are intended. The use of puns in sonnet cycles does not begin with Shakespeare. The reader may recall that in Astrophil and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney, the poet puns on the word rich (see Sonnet 37). Like the word will, this word was also a name. The real-life model for Stella, a woman named Penelope Devereux, was married to a man named Lord Robert Rich.

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"SONNET 138" For many reasons, lovers sometimes play games with one another. Such games may make the relationship more exciting. On other occasions, the games may help the lovers accept the faults in each other. Such a game is the topic in "Sonnet 138." In this particular case, the speaker and the Dark Lady tell deliberate lies to one another because the truth would affect the quality of their relationship. The truth would make them unhappy. In regards to the structure of this sonnet, the division comes between the octet and sestet. In the octet the speaker explains what the lies are, but in the sestet he explains why he and the Dark Lady pretend that the lies are true. In the first quatrain, the speaker presents a kind of paradox. He claims that he believes the Dark Lady even though he knows that she lies to him. How can a person believe something when that person knows it is a lie? It is a game. It is an act of imagination. The speaker and the Dark Lady play this game so that they can enjoy being with each other all the more. The word truth (in line 1) actually has two separate meanings here. First, the word refers to the truth accepted by the speaker when the Dark Lady lies to him. She tells the speaker that he is young ("some untutored youth") and innocent ("unlearned in subtleties") even though he is old and experienced. The speaker accepts the truth of the statement even though he is painfully aware that he is
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an older man. He enjoys the lie. Second, the word truth also suggests the idea of being true or faithful in a relationship. The Dark Lady swears that she is true to the speaker, and the speaker pretends to believe her. However, he knows it is really a lie. He knows that she has other lovers. But it is better to pretend that she does not. If he thinks about her other lovers, after all, it would only bring him grief and sorrow and perhaps drive him mad with jealousy. In the second quatrain we find that the Dark Lady is pretending as much as the speaker. She pretends that the speaker is young even though she knows that he is old, that his "days are past the best" (meaning his best days are past or over, line 6). Thus, both the speaker and the Dark Lady suppress or avoid the truth. In the first two lines of the sestet (lines 9-10), the speaker asks two questions: Why does the Dark Lady claim or pretend to be true or faithful? And why does the speaker claim or pretend to be young? In the next two lines the speaker then answers those questions. In answer to the first question, the speaker states that "seeming" or pretended trust is the best way to behave or act in a relationship ("love's best habit"). If one does not have trust -- or at least pretend to have trust -- the relationship would not go well. The couple would fight. In answer to the second question, the speaker asserts that older people do not like to be reminded or told that they are old. The speaker would rather not think about his age at all.
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At the end of the poem, in the couplet, the speaker concludes that, for the reasons he has given (in lines 9-12), he and the Dark Lady have decided to lie to one another. They have decided that this game they play is in their best interest. However, the speaker adds one more word in explanation: flattery. He explains that hiding their faults (his old age and her infidelity) with lies makes them both feel better. They are "flattered" in pretending that the lies are true. It is flattery. It is vanity. But it makes them happy.

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"SONNET 144" The two separate sections of the sonnet cycle, the sonnets on the Young Man and the sonnets on the Dark Lady, are united in "Sonnet 144." In this poem both the Young Man and the Dark Lady are the subjects. In this way, Shakespeare brings unity to his sonnet cycle. The plot of the sonnet cycle is also developed further in this poem, for the love triangle suddenly becomes more complex. Not only does the speaker love both the Young Man and the Dark Lady, but also the speaker now suggests that the Dark Lady is also having a relationship with the Young Man. For the structure of this poem, the poet makes use of the octet and sestet division. In the octet the speaker states the situation, but in the sestet he focuses more on his reaction to that situation. The use of contrasts also helps to lend structure to this sonnet. The following chart may be useful in discovering the poet's strategy in this regard: THE YOUNG MAN Comfort (1) Better Angel (3) Right Fair (3) Saint (7) Purity (8) THE DARK LADY Despair (1) Worser Spirit (4) Colored Ill (4) Devil (7) Foul Pride (8)

The poem also unites the two sections of the sonnet cycle thematically. The speaker states at the beginning of the first quatrain that he has "two
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loves." Of course, these two loves literally suggest the Young Man and the Dark Lady. But the words also suggest the two kinds of love that the speaker is experiencing: (1) spiritual love and (2) earthly love (or lust). In this sonnet, then, the poet is indirectly but thematically making a comment about the effects of these two kinds of love. Thus, the words that the speaker uses to describe the Young Man should also be considered as part of the poet's definition of spiritual love. Similarly, the words the speaker uses to describe the Dark Lady contribute to the poet's definition of earthly love. The Young Man (or spiritual love) brings the speaker "comfort." The speaker feels calm, peaceful, or serene with the Young Man. His soul is at rest. However, the Dark Lady (or earthly love) brings him "despair." The speaker becomes depressed, anxious, unreasonable, and perhaps even mad in her presence. His soul is troubled. The speaker refers to the Young Man and the Dark Lady as "two spirits" (in line 2) that affect him greatly and constantly. Like the Good Angel and the Bad Angel who spoke to Faustus (in the play by Christopher Marlowe), the two spirits here may represent the conscience (the impulse to do good) and the desire (the impulse to do evil) of the speaker. The Young Man then, is like an angel to the speaker. The Young Man inspires the speaker to be good or to perform acts of goodness. The Dark Lady, on the other hand, is like a devil. She inspires the speaker to commit acts of evil and to commit acts of sin.
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In the second quatrain the speaker states his belief that the Dark Lady is trying to persuade the Young Man to have a relationship with her. This, of course, drives the speaker mad ("to win me soon to hell"). The situation is a living hell for him. The speaker describes the Dark Lady as a powerful devil who is trying to tempt or seduce the most beautiful and innocent of angels (the Young Man) to an act of evil (to sleep with her). The speaker is not so much jealous as he is concerned for the safety of the Young Man. The speaker fears the effect that the Dark Lady will have on the Young Man. This is not a matter of sexuality. Earlier (beginning with "Sonnet 1") the speaker had urged the Young Man to have relationships with women so that he could have children. But the speaker does not want the Young man to have a relationship with the Dark Lady, specifically, because the speaker feels that she will corrupt him. Somehow, she will make him evil like herself. He will lose his "purity" and be contaminated or stained by her "foul pride." The speaker admits, in the third quatrain, that he is not sure whether the Dark Lady and the Young Man are actually having an affair. The speaker only does "suspect" that they might be having an affair because (1) he knows that they are friends to another and (2) he realizes that both of them are away from him at the same time. The speaker is only making a "guess." He does not know for certain. This brings up an interesting question. Does the speaker really have a good reason to suspect
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his "two loves"? Perhaps there were other indications or hints (left unsaid in this very short poem) that suggested the affair was taking place. Or also quite likely is the possibility that the speaker is allowing his imagination to run wild. This idea would not be contrary to the poet's thematic intentions. Once again, the poet may be attempting to show the negative emotions and the psychological effects of lust on a man. Perhaps the speaker's lust has caused him to lose his reason and imagine the worst. Perhaps the speaker has created this nightmare for himself. In the couplet, we find that the speaker realizes his own uncertainty. He states that until the Dark Lady drives the Young Man away, he (the speaker) will never know if the affair is taking place or not. And, unfortunately, the reader will never know either. The answer is never given in the sonnet cycle.

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"SONNET 146" Toward the end of the sonnet sequence on the Dark Lady, the poet focuses more on the idea of regret. This is very much like the sonnet cycle written by Francis Petrarch. The speaker regrets the waste of spirit spent in pursuit of his earthly desire. However, unlike the cycle by Petrarch, Shakespeare's sonnets do not deal with unrequited love. Rather, the speaker has been with the Dark Lady; the speaker has acted on his lust. However, such actions have harmed him more than made him feel good. And, so, he regrets ever having been with the Dark Lady at all. In "Sonnet 146" the poet examines the two parts that make up (according to Christians) all human beings: the body and the soul. Structurally, the poem can be divided between the octet and the sestet. In the octet the speaker examines the value of the body, but in the sestet he recognizes the worth of the soul. This sonnet, then, does not deal with the Dark Lady directly. But since we know that the speaker has given his body to the Dark Lady, that he has used his body to satisfy his lust for this woman, his comments about the body then are a direct result or consequence of his relationship with her. In the very first line of the poem (in the first quatrain) the poet describes his body as earth. This metaphor suggests the low value that the body has. It is as common as dirt. Of course, the body is also "sinful." As we know, the speaker has given in to the temptation of lust. However, at the center of the
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body resides the soul. The speaker describes the soul as the "lord" or commander of all emotions. But the emotions are "rebel powers" because they cause a person to rebel or act against goodness. They bring harm to the soul. Yet, at the same time, the soul (personified) provides the emotions (also personified) with fine and elegant military uniforms (or "array"). By this Shakespeare means that the soul is somehow the seat or center of our emotions. Our emotions come from our soul. This is a paradox. If our emotions come from our soul, then how can our emotions be harmful to our souls? At the end of this quatrain, the speaker asks this very question. Why does the soul create such powerful emotions within us (line 4) when those same emotions cause the soul to suffer and become weak (line 3)? This is a large and, of course, inexplicable (or unexplainable) philosophical question. In short, Shakespeare is asking this: why does a man act in a way that is harmful to himself? Related questions are asked in the second quatrain. The speakers uses the metaphor of the "fading mansion" (an old, large house that is falling apart) to describe the body because the body houses or contains the soul. However, the body is fading. It will eventually die. So, the speaker asks the soul this: Why is it spending so much money on a house that will fall apart? In other words, why is the soul pouring out so many emotions on the body when the body will soon die? The body, the speaker's next question implies, is nothing but food for the worms.
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So, the speaker cannot see the sense in allowing the body to become so full of harmful emotion. Although the speaker does not bring in the idea of God in his poem, the question could be addressed to God. Why does God allow man to experience such sinful emotions for the short period of time that he is on the earth? In the sestet the speaker vows to work on the soul's behalf at the expense of his body's enjoyment. To put it more simply, the speaker vows to give up sex so that he can make his soul stronger. In the first line of the third quatrain (line 9), the speaker refers to the body (in another metaphor) as the "servant" to the soul. The "servant's loss" is the loss of physical or emotional pleasure (sex) so that the soul will thrive or grow stronger. In the following line the pronoun that also refers to the body. Let the body "pine" or be sad, the speaker adds, so that the soul's "store" of goodness becomes larger. A reader might recall the book of Good Deeds that stored or recorded all of the good deeds committed by Everyman in the medieval play entitled Everyman. Thus, the speaker plans to experience hours of boredom or inactivity ("dross") so that his soul shall become more holy or good or "divine." The speaker will enrich his soul ("within") but will deprive his body ("without"). Simply put, the speaker will give up sex. In the couplet at the end of this sonnet, the speaker concludes that the soul will become stronger upon his death -- the death that takes (or "feeds on") all men. And once he is dead, the speaker will no
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longer have to worry about death. The ending of this poem is somewhat odd and problematical. The speaker seems to be implying that by giving up his emotions, by denying himself the activity associated with those emotions (namely sex), then all he has to look forward to is death. The couplet might also be implying that by giving up such earthly pleasure, the speaker is experiencing a kind of death anyway. In the following poem, we discover that the speaker has not been so successful in putting his emotions to rest. He still craves earthly love.

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"SONNET 147" Despite his plan to give up sex and to enrich or feed his soul (as he declares in "Sonnet 146"), the speaker finds that giving up earthly desire is not so easy. Perhaps it is even impossible. In "Sonnet 147" the speaker admits that the lust within him is stronger than his soul. In "Sonnet 146" the speaker describes his internal conflict and the anguish that he feels within himself in terms of body and soul. In "Sonnet 147" the speaker once again suggests that the conflict within him is caused by the dual or two-part nature of man, but in this poem the two parts are referred to as Reason and Desire (or Emotion). Although the terms are different, they are related. According to Christianity at that time, the soul was the center or source of Reason, but desire is a condition of the body. The reader may also find it helpful to view the structure of this poem in terms of the octet and sestet. In the octet the speaker explains how Desire is in not only in conflict with Reason but how Desire also appears to have defeated Reason. In the sestet the speaker then explains his state or condition now that his Reason is gone. The sonnet begins with a simile. The speaker compares his love (that is, his earthly love or lust for the Dark Lady) to a fever (or to a disease that causes a fever) in the first quatrain. It is an appropriate simile. The heat of a fever is like the heat of passion,
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and such heat makes the sufferer burn and suffer. However, unlike a typical disease, the patient (the speaker) in this case desires or wants the very germ or microorganism that causes or worsens ("nurses") his disease. In other words, he wants sex. But having sex only increases his lust, his desire. It only makes him worse. The metaphor is continued or extended in the second quatrain. Reason is personified as a physician or doctor who walks out on his patient because the patient refuses to listen to or accept the doctor's help. To put it another way, the speaker refuses to listen to reason. So, the speaker then believes that the only possible cure to his condition, the only remedy that will bring an end to his desire, is death. His doctor (his reason), though, did not see death as an acceptable alternative (line 8). Thus, Shakespeare may be suggesting that death is not a reasonable or acceptable way to escape or avoid desire. Some time has apparently passed for the patient as the reader begins the third quatrain. The patient or speaker is no longer thinking about death. The speaker just does not care. He no longer believes that he can find any cure for his disease. He no longer thinks that he can control his desire. Since his reason has left, the speaker is now mad. He cannot sleep at night (line 10) because his thoughts are always on his lust. He adds that both his thoughts and his speech (or "discourse") are those belonging to
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a madman. They do not make sense, and they do not express the "truth" (line 12). In the final two lines of the poem, the couplet, the speaker becomes more specific as to which statements are untruthful and which thoughts are lies. The speaker exclaims that he has thought and said that the Dark Lady is beautiful ("fair") and, perhaps, virtuous (suggested by the word "bright"). However, he knows that she is neither fair nor bright. Not only does she have dark features, but also (although she may be beautiful in appearance) she is not beautiful on the inside. She is not virtuous. She is not good. The simile the speaker uses to describe her coloring ("black as hell") more accurately depicts the condition of the speaker, who is in a living hell. Shakespeare's commentary on lust in the Dark Lady sonnets provides no solutions. Shakespeare seems to be commenting that no solutions exist.

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