Shakespeare in Love Sonnets to t he ‘fair lord’
Love Declared Sonnet 18 Sonnet 18 is possibly one of the most famous sonnets ever written. As part of the sequence – following on from the procreation sonnets – it marks a shift in tone and subject. There are no more references to procreation, to death and to age. Instead there is a burst of enthusiasm and positivity. There are still links w ith many of the other sonnets through the descriptions and the sense of the youth’s immortality, which w ill now be preserved in these ‘eternal lines’ rather than in a child. Nature continues to be a key image/thread in this sonnet. Shakespeare uses hyperbole and dispraise to make it clear just how beautiful the youth is: the summer’s d ay is found lacking in the sense it is too hot, too windy, too short-‐lived and sometimes too cloudy. The sestet begins powerfully with a declaration of eternal life – that the youth is not only a summer’s d ay at its best, but he ‘shall not fade’. The crucial point is how both the speaker and the youth have won the struggle against time because they have been immortalized through verse.
s day? summer’ a o t e e h erate’ mpare t ore temp m d n ‘Shall I co a ly ve more lo ) Thou art (line 1-‐2
‘But thy ete
mer shall n
ot fade’ (line 9)
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see So long lives this, and this gives life to the e’ (line 13– 14)
Sonnet 20 This sonnet seems to offer a break in the sequence. The battle w ith time disappears and the attention of the speaker is now fully on the youth and his appearance. He has become an object of desire, rather than someone who needs to be married.
ainted hand p n w o ature’s ssion’ e with n f my pa c o a f s s ’s e n r t a s ‘A wom ster mi – 2) the ma , u o (line 1 h t H a st
The sonnet marks out the youth as being as beautiful as a woman but with out any of the artifice that the poet believes is found in the women of the time. The octave establishes the eye established as the dominant image – drawn from as early as sonnet 1.
‘’A n eye more bright than the
The sestet tells the story of the young man’s creation – that he was meant to be a woman, but Nature fell in love with him and so she ‘pricked thee out for woman’s pleasure.’ The pun on the word ‘pricked’ w ould not have been offensive to the Elizabethans. By the end of this sonnet, the speaker has come to some kind of acceptance that his love for the young man w ill be that of purity w hile the physical side of things can be set aside for women.
irs, less false in rol
ling’ (line 5)
, pleasure woman’s r o f t u o ’ re ked thee ir treasu e she pric ’s use th e e v o l y ‘’But sinc h t and -‐ 14) thy love (line 13 Mine be
This sonnet clearly sets up the opposition between two key aspects of love – the pure and the sexual. It is also clear that a person can love truly even if that love is never consummated.
Sonnet 27 Sonnets 21 – 25 are intimate and loving. The close relationship between the speaker and the fair lord is celebrated and explored. Sonnets 27-‐30 are calm and fairly meditative, exploring the traditional themes of sleeplessness, separation, bad fortune and reminiscence. Sonnet 27 explores the impact of separation and the sadness felt at being separated from a beloved. The sonnet introduces ideas of ‘pilgrimage’ suggesting that his feelings for the young man is like a religion to him. This is furthered by Shakespeare’s use of images associated with blindness and sight – so that the young man’s image ‘shadow’ takes on the role of a beacon leading him through the darkness of his life. This is further emphasised by the use of the simile ‘like a jewel hung’ suggesting preciousness but also ‘hung’ like a lantern. Again, the imagery is focusing around light and being given hope in a dark time. The use of the word ‘shadow’ in this sonnet to mean image, connects with Sonnet 43 and lines 4-‐5: ‘Then thou, w hose shadows doth make bright/ How would thy shadow’s form happy show.’ Here the literal and figurative defintions of shadow are juxtaposed.
Sonnet 29 Sonnet 29 shows the poet/speaker at his most insecure and troubled. He feels unlucky, shamed and fiercely jealous of those around him. An examination of Shakespeare’s life around the time he w rote the sonnet reveals to traumatic events might have shaped the theme. There w as a severe outbreak of plague in London in 1592 – resulting in the closing of the playhouses which meant he could not earn a living. Also at this time a dramatist, Robert Greene, made a scathing attack on Shakespeare – describing him as a pompous, scheming, vicious ingrate riding on the success of other writers. The attack must have caused Shakespeare great anxiety so it is a testament to the love he feels for the young man that even at this terrible time his soul can be lifted ‘Like a lark at break of day’ and that despite everything he w ould ‘scorn to change my state with kings.’ It is also possible to argue that this sonnet plays into the conventions of the sonnet tradition – in which many misfortunes work hard to make the lover unhappy, but that his beloved brings him great joy and rises above the clouds. It is also w orth noting another reference to faith/religion: ‘sings hymns at heaven’s gate’.
‘Yet i n th e se H apl y I th thoughts my s i n k on Like elf m thee to th ost d – e and lark espis F r om t hen at br ing, the s my s e ak of ul le n t ate day eart arisi h, sin ng gs hy mns at he a ve n ’s ga te
ings h br t l a s. we uch ith king s d ’ b er te w mem my sta e r e e t lov chang we e o t s y n or th ‘For hen I sc t t T ha
Sonnet 30 This one is similar to sonnet 29, in that it is gentle and thoughtful. It is similar in both the ideas presented and in the layout. The discontent w hich was expressed in Sonnet 29 is still there ‘I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,/ And w ith o ld woes new wail my dear time’s waste’. His is still weighed down by the sorrows of his past life. It is only ‘while I think on thee, d ear friend, /All losses are restor’d and sorrows end’. The language is quasi-‐legal: ‘waste’, ‘expense’ ‘grievance’, ‘cancelled’ , ‘paid before’ -‐ suggesting some kind of discrepancy of account – but when it is all levied up, and balance, everything is outweighed by the joy of thinking about his beloved.
Love Denied Sonnets 33-‐35 These three sonnets trace a moment of rejection in the relationship between the youth and the poet. There is a genuineness in the sorrow expressed which might suggest autobiographical content. In sonnet 33 the first quatrain is filled with images of gold, wealth and seeming tenderness: the ‘sovereign eye/ Kissing with golden face’ and the reference to ‘gilding’ and ‘heavenly alchemy’. However the word ‘Flatter’ that begins line two undermines this with a sense of insincerity. Although it also means to stroke also, it does however suggest that the sun made the mountains appear more brilliant than they in fact were. The second quatrain is full of grief at the loss of the sunshine w hich clouds riding with ‘ugly rack on his celestial face’ blot out. The volta that follows in the sestet suggests a problem in the relationship – suggesting ‘The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now’. His beauty has been hidden – suggesting maybe something he has done has caused the poet some pain. Even though he denies it in the concluding rhyming couplet, he has clearly been hurt by w hat has happened. Sonnet 34 is linked closely to the previous sonnet in thought and language. The offence referred to – ‘why d idst thou promise such a beauteous day’ and then ‘let base clouds o ’ertake me in my way’ – suggest a deceit/deception of some kind. The poet is puzzled and painfully disappointed by the youth and the fact he has allowed the poet to suffer does suggest a d enial of friendship. As such there are a number of allusions to religious terminology: ‘repent’, ‘bear’s the strong offence’s cross’ and ‘ransom’ and this brings to mind Peter’s denial of Christ which was followed by his repentance, sorrow and tears. Again, the sonnet ends with a reaffirmation of the poet’s love and his forgiveness. Sonnet 35 continues the theme. The sin which the youth committed against the poet, which previously appeared a denial of love or of commitment, here is described also as a ‘sensual fault’. This implies a sin of the flesh, lust for another person or merely a temporary lapse from grace. It is possible what he did is linked to that which is described in sonnets 40 – 43, where the youth steals the poet’s mistress.. Again the language o f the sestet contains legal terminology ‘advocate’, ‘lawful plea’ , ‘civil w ar’ which is a stark contrast to the biblical and theological language o f sin and redemption which is in the second quatrain and the previous sonnet.
Sonnet 33 Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; Anon permit the basest clouds to ride With ugly rack on his celestial face, And from the forlorn world his visage hide, Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: Even so my sun one early morn did shine, With all triumphant splendour on my brow; But out! alack! he was but one hour mine, The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now. Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.
Sonnet 34 Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day, And make me travel forth without my cloak, To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way, Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke? 'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break, To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face, For no man well of such a salve can speak, That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace: Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief; Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss: The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief To him that bears the strong offence's cross. Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds, And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.
Sonnet 3 No more be griev'd at that which thou hast done: Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud: Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun, And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud. All men make faults, and even I in this, Authorizing thy trespass with compare, Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss, Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are; For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense, — Thy adverse party is thy advocate, — And 'gainst myself a lawful plea commence: Such civil war is in my love and hate, That I an accessary needs must be, To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me. 7 7
Sonnet 36 This sonnet suggests a separation from the young man: “Let me confess that we two must be twain.” The necessity of separation from him -‐ ‘separable spite’ -‐ is a decision made out of w isdom to avoid dishnonour and public shame – although what that shame is, is open to debate but the sense of loss is palpable in the lines ‘I may not evermore acknowledge thee/ Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame’.
Sonnet 37 In this sonnet, the poet takes stock and reflects on what the youth has given him. Though he is like a ‘decrepit father’, his love for the young man’s youth and spirit transforms him so that ‘I in thy abundance am sufficed’: he is young again.
Sonnet 38 This sonnet ties in with many as it praises the youth as the source of all inspiration – there are at least 9 other sonnets that work on this idea. This sonnet helps reinvest the youth with the previous beauty and fascination, which perhaps had been fading under the w eight of his faults as shown in the previous sonnets.
Sonnet 39 This sonnet affirms the need for them to live apart as he considers the young man ‘the better part of me’. This means any praise he gives him will seem like self praise – so separation will allow him to give the young man ‘That due to see which thou d eserv’st alone’. However this leaves him with the further thought that he w ill have to endure the terrible torment of absence. He tries to alleviate this by suggesting it w on’t be so bad as he can think about the young man all the time.
Love Betrayed Sonnets 40 – 42 provide another sequence of sonnets in which the poet shares his possessions and his mistress with the young man. These three sonnets, 40-‐42, are matched by three in the dark lady sequence, 133, 134 and 144, and probably relate to the same incident or series of incidents. The reasons for the current arrangement are not known, and we may only speculate that the poet perhaps wished the three later sonnets, addressed to his mistress to balance these three written to the youth. Sonnet 40 Sonnet 40 is one of the most desolate sonnets in the entire series. The poet cannot disguise the fact his beloved youth has behaved treacherously. This and the following two sonnets try to come to terms with the reality of deception and loss. The use of the word ‘love’ in this sonnet means at least three different things. Two of these meanings are addressed in the first line. ‘Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all.’ Here ‘my loves’ refers to the poet’s possessions, both physical – the sonnets themselves – and emotional. Following this the phrase ‘my love’ , set off, refers to the young man himself, whom the poet is addressing. Although the allusion to the youth's now possessing the poet's mistress is slight in this sonnet, line 6 — "I cannot blame thee for my love thou usest" — contains the strongest hint of this new relationship: The young man "usest" the poet's mistress — "my love." But it also suggests he is taking advantage of his love for the young man too. The poet wavers between anger at and forgiveness of the young man. Line 7 begins, "But yet be blamed," and we expect the poet to rant in extreme hostility at the youth, but this mood then shifts to the forgiveness contained in lines 9 and 10: "I do forgive thy robb'ry, gentle thief, / Although thou steal thee all my poverty." In lines 11 and 12, the mood shifts again, but now the poet contrasts love and hate: ". . . it is a greater grief / To bear love's wrong than hate's known injury." And finally, even while angry over the affair, the poet forgives the youth's lecherous nature: "Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows, / Kill me with spites; yet we must not be foes." It is noticeable that this sonnet uses the word 'love' considerably more than in any other sonnet (10 times, as love, love's or loves). This may be an expression of the fact that the poet feels his love more threatened than at any other time, and by repetition of the word he will cast a spell by it and prevent it from flying away. Sonnet 41 In order to forgive the youth for his actions, the poet places himself in both the youth's position and that of the mistress. In the sonnet's first four lines, the poet mildly accuses the young man of committing small sins, but he then goes on to accept the youth's actions given his age and beauty. The youth's behaviour, so the poet seems to say, is natural and expected. However, what is even more expected is that others attempt to gain the young man's affections: "Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed." This reasoning prompts the poet to blame those who tempt the youth rather than the youth himself. Forgiveness of the young man is mixed with reprimand, for he breaks "a twofold truth" — the poet and the mistress' affair — when he begins loving the woman. Although the poet admonishes the youth, his tone is reserved, in part because he suggests that the youth and the youth's beauty are two separate things: "And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth, / Who lead thee in their riot even there / Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth." The young man is not at fault for coming between the poet and the mistress; rather, his beauty and youth "forced" him to act as he did. Only in this last sonnet concerning the youth and the poet's mistress does the poet make fully apparent the main reason for his being so upset: "That she hath thee is of my wailing chief, / A loss in love that touches me more nearly." The poet is grieved by his mistress' infidelity, but he laments even more the fact that she has what he so ravenously craves: the physical and emotional attentions of the young man.
Only in this last sonnet concerning the youth and the poet's mistress does the poet make fully apparent the m ain reason for his b eing so upset: "That she hath thee is of my wailing chief, / A loss in love that touches me m ore nearly." The poet is grieved by his mistress' infidelity, but he laments even more the fact that she has what he so ravenously craves: the physical and emotional attentions of the young man. Reconciling himself to his mistress' b ehavior requires all the poet's powers of expression and self-‐ deception. He m akes the torturous argument that since he and the youth share personalities, they must share the same woman: "But here's the joy: my friend and I are one; / Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone." Likewise, because the poet loves the woman, and because the woman is having an affair with the young man, then the rational conclusion — according to the poet — is that the poet and the youth are that much closer in their relationship
Sonnet 40 Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all; What hast thou then more than thou hadst before? No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call; All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more. Then, if for my love, thou my love receivest, I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest; But yet be blam'd, if thou thy self deceivest By wilful taste of what thyself refusest. I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief, Although thou steal thee all my poverty: And yet, love knows it is a greater grief To bear love's wrong, than hate's known injury. Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows, Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes.
Sonnet 41 Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits, When I am sometime absent from thy heart, Thy beauty, and thy years full well befits, For still temptation follows where thou art. Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won, Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assail'd; And when a woman woos, what woman's son Will sourly leave her till he have prevail'd? Ay me! but yet thou mightst my seat forbear, And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth, Who lead thee in their riot even there Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth: — Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee, Thine by thy beauty being false to me.
Sonnet 42 That thou hast her it is not all my grief, And yet it may be said I loved her dearly; That she hath thee is of my wailing chief, A loss in love that touches me more nearly. Loving offenders thus I will excuse ye: Thou dost love her, because thou know'st I love her; And for my sake even so doth she abuse me, Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her. If I lose thee, my loss is my love's gain, And losing her, my friend hath found that loss; Both find each other, and I lose both twain, And both for my sake lay on me this cross: But here's the joy; my friend and I are one; Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.
‘From fairest creatures we desire increase, That thereby beauty's rose might never die’ ‘Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament And only herald to the gaudy spring’
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow, And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field
see the brave day sunk in hideous night When lofty trees I see barren of leaves, Which erst from heat did canopy the herd, And summer's green all girded up in sheaves, Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay, Which husbandry in honour might uphold, Against the stormy gusts of winter's day And barren rage of death's eternal cold?
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm'd, And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature's changing course untrimm'd: But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
A woman's face with nature's own hand painted Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting
Haply I think on thee, - and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate’ 12 12
Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; Anon permit the basest clouds to ride With ugly rack on his celestial face, And from the forlorn world his visage hide, Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: Even so my sun one early morn did shine, With all triumphant splendour on my brow; But out! alack! he was but one hour mine, The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now. Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.
Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day, And make me travel forth without my cloak, To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way, Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke? 'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break, To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud: Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun, And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
Shakespeare’s love sonnets are intensely personal and address the deep issues of life. Love is dealt w ith most comprehensively. The two main subjects of the speaker’s love – the ‘fair young man’ and the ‘dark lady’ -‐have fascinated critics o ver the centuries. Scholars have explored the Elizabethan times and Shakespeare’s sonnets to try and identify these two figures and there are several theories, although there is some consensus around the identity of the young man. He seems to have been the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare’s patron between 1592 and 1595. Love in the sonnets does not have a single definition. Rather, the sonnets proved an intangible collection of characteristics that together make up a powerful force that defeats all obstacles. The first mention of love occurs in sonnet 13 when the speaker addresses the young man as ‘ love’ and ‘Dear my love’, but it is not until sonnet 18 that the true depth of the speaker’s feelings become clear. 18.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm'd, And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature's changing course untrimm'd: But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st, Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st, So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
thou, the master mistress of my passion
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure, Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure. 21.
O! let me, true in love, but truly write, And then believe me, my love is as fair As any mother's child,
For all that beauty that doth cover thee, Is but the seemly raiment of my heart, Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me: 14 14
Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain, Thou gav’st me thine not to give back again.
For then my thoughts — from far where I abide — Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee my soul's imaginary sight Presents thy shadow to my sightless view, Which, like a jewel (hung in ghastly night, Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising, Haply I think on thee, — and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate,; For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
In our two loves there is but one respect - I love thee in such sort, As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.
Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all; What hast thou then more than thou hadst before? No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call; All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more. Then, if for my love, thou my love receivest, I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest; But yet be blam'd, if thou thy self deceivest By wilful taste of what thyself refusest. I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief, Although thou steal thee all my poverty: And yet, love knows it is a greater grief To bear love's wrong, than hate's known injury. Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows, Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes.
That she hath thee is of my wailing chief, A loss in love that touches me more nearly. Loving offenders thus I will excuse ye: Thou dost love her, because thou know'st I love her;
If I lose thee, my loss is my love's gain, And losing her, my friend hath found that loss; Both find each other, and I lose both twain, And both for my sake lay on me this cross: But here's the joy; my friend and I are one; Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.
Task Consider how Shakespeare presents ideas of love in the first 42 sonnets. You should look at: • • • •
Images he uses to describe love How the structure of the sonnets helps to reinforce his ideas The conflicts between sexual and ideal love The influence of beauty on love
How nature is used to explore ideas o f love.
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