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Shakespeares sonnet 9 a closer look essay

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. Howsoever it may pique the reader with its opacity,1sonnet 94 achieves a concussive conclusion through its evocation of a rarely used sense: Shakespeare evokes smell, briefly, in only nine of the 154 sonnets.

Sight, a sense that the poet can control, is preferred. One can close one's eyes or turn one's head, one can manipulate and sculpt the visual world; but invisible smell assaults and surprises the body, delivering a shock commensurate only to the shock of seeing an ideal downrazed, or a faith forsworn.

The jarring couplet of 94 alludes, of course, to the beloved's alleged moral turpitude. The speaker's cosmology is knitted into the very flesh of his beloved—but like the lily, skin rots.

  • The sonnet would thereby enact the process of decay which the sequence so consistently laments;
  • The sonnet would thereby enact the process of decay which the sequence so consistently laments;
  • Is constancy itself unreliable?
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The fallibility of the speaker's ideals and the 'wantonness' 96 of his beloved the two, I argue, are the same provide the sequence with one of its central fixations: Critics have taken various positions on the matter: John Bernard, for one, dismisses the young man's sins as 'mortal accidents. Shakespeare, he claims, is not only aware of but also comfortable with the economic flux and inconstancy of all forms and values.

  • Because the constantly, visibly false approximates an identifiable truth, the speaker, finally, can revel in certainty e;
  • The sequence as a whole reproduces this pattern of assertion and erasure;
  • By over-emphasizing the speaker's faith on the one hand, and by underestimating his desire for faith on the other, both groups of critics thereby deny the speaker's torment and doubt, his simultaneous need and inability to believe in the constancy of Love, the beloved, and the poetry which alone can represent them;
  • Shakespeare's Sonnets on Certainty,' 833;
  • In 92, the speaker suspects that the young man is 'inconstant.

By over-emphasizing the speaker's faith on the one hand, and by underestimating his desire for faith on the other, both groups of critics thereby deny the speaker's torment and doubt, his simultaneous need and inability to believe in the constancy of Love, the beloved, and the poetry which alone can represent them.

The 'monumentalizing' sonnets engage the dialectic of the speaker's faith most explicitly: The disagreements among critics on these sonnets reproduces the interior dynamic of each poem: I will read the sonnet sequence as a sequence—a move of faith for which I can provide no justification other than the agnostic's: The sequence as a whole, then, dramatizes the mind's endurance of love, its struggle over time between desire and disgust, between philosophical idealism and the dictates of the corporeal.

By following the narrative of Shakespeare's clauses and the plot of his images, I hope to provide a theoretical framework for understanding both the compelling faith of the 'monumentalizing' sonnets and their critically revealed potential for self-consumption.

I hope to provide a more complicated understanding of Shakespeare's notion of belief, and a deeper appreciation of shakespeares sonnet 9 a closer look essay idea of constancy, which thrusts to the heavens as 'truth,' and crumbles into the earth as 'decay. A close cousin to 105, sonnet 53 deploys the rhetoric of Platonic forms to commemorate the constancy of the beloved. What is your substance, whereof are you made, That millions of shakespeares sonnet 9 a closer look essay shadows on you tend?

Since everyone hath, every one, one shade, And you, but one, can every shadow lend. Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit Is poorly imitated after you; On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set, And you in Grecian tires are painted new. Speak of the spring and foison of the year; The one doth shadow of your beauty show, The other as your bounty doth appear, And you in every blessed shape we know.

In all external grace you have some part, But you like none, none you, for constant heart. Many critics accept the straightforwardness of this convention, attributing to the speaker a votary's ingenuous faith, and an infatuate's hyperbolic ebullience.

Of 53 Murray Krieger writes: Doubt does not begin, however, until the sonnet closes, until the reader breathes the very last words of the terminal couplet. According to Stephen Booth, 'for constant heart' may have been pronounced much the same as 'for constant art'11—that is, perpetual artifice, counterfeit honesty.

If the sonnet is first read as a celebration of constancy, a rereading based upon this potential phonetic misprision would reveal the denotative duplicity of much of the imagery deployed throughout. Line 7, for example, reads thus when paraphrased: If one emphasizes 'counterfeit' two of its three syllables are stressedthen the sentence can indeed suggest that it is the very counterfeitness of the description which is 'imitated' after the beloved.

And indeed, if portrait accumulates connotations of falseness upon rereading, then 'shadows' and 'shade,' which can signify both images and portraits, may as well. The 'strange shadows' prefigure the slanders which 'tend' to the beloved in sonnet 96, as well as the darkness cast against the beautiful sky by the crow in 70. By line 4 of sonnet 53, the beloved has become a merchant in such shadows: The Platonic convention itself may have arisen in response to such anxiety.

It sets limits to the possibility of metamorphosis, rooting polyform materiality in changeless origin: Appropriating this model, the speaker insists that the young man is constant, even as he participates in an unending flux of 'external grace.

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A master of wordplay, Shakespeare surely must have anticipated this possibility—he must have known that words, like men, are mutable and inconstant, and that poems thus contain within themselves the possibility of their own destruction, like the canker roses which, in the very next sonnet, die sadly alone.

This poem is meant to celebrate flexible constancy, the fluid repetition of a stable beauty. Shakespeare guarantees this by inhibiting the swerve of language, hemming in his words. The octave proceeds in units of two: Lines 9 to 12 form a unit of four, and the sonnet concludes, of course, with a couplet. I requote the poem for convenience: The six clausal units each proceed rhythmically: Lines 5 and 6 vary the rhythm slightly with two breaths Describe Adonis,—and the counterfeit is poorly imitated after youand 7 and 8 become the second beat of this new two-breath rhythm On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,—And you in Grecian tires are painted new.

Line 9 prepares for the return to the triple breath Speak of the shakespeares sonnet 9 a closer look essay and foison of the yearwhich manifests itself in the unit of three lines which follows—a pattern reproduced in the couplet, whose unbroken first line introduces the three-breathed finale But you like none,—none you,—for constant heart.

Finally, included within each of these units of the poem are three moments of emphasis, three objects of attention see previous emphases. The formal structure of the sonnet thus reproduces its content: By arranging the poem in this way—by breathing it thus—Shakespeare most effectively 'transfixes' his slippery words, locking them into place and thereby creating a truly 'constant art.

The sonnet would thereby enact the process of decay which the shakespeares sonnet 9 a closer look essay so consistently laments. Like the young man or the rose, the sonnet blossoms forth into beauty, into a ringing declaration of faith and love. But after the final words of the terminal couplet, after time with subsequent rereadings begins to pass, the poem begins to wither into cynicism and self-consuming irony.

Nativity, once in the main of light, Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned, Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight. Its violent compression of constancy and mutability, certainty and doubt, bodies forth the speaker's complex attitude toward his language and his love.

His is not an ingenuous faith, a faith blind to its own rational impossibility. Nor is it, on the other hand, a sham of faith, a cynical mockery of a lover's belief. The speaker does not fluctuate between these poles, nor does he come to rest in a nullifying middle ground; rather, he simultaneously believes and disbelieves, each moment. Indeed, his faith is fortified by his very doubt. The steely-eyed conviction which informs the couplet of 116, for example, is engendered by the subversion of his belief: And the confident grandeur of 55, likewise, is a product of his inability to believe fully in his own words, to accept rationally their truth and permanence.

But love insists, and the speaker thus surrenders to the irrationality of his faith with a proselyte's hopeless, hyperbolic energy. It is a faith which derives its energy from its desperation; it is a faith that is forever shoring itself up against its own decay. Decay—the failure of constancy—is one of the sequence's central fixations.

The speaker images decay in two primary ways: The actuality of decay is not so interesting to Shakespeare, however, as the representation of decay: Shakespeare uses his persona to explore the difficulty of perceiving that which must not be perceived, of speaking that which must not be spoken the smell that cannot be smelled, the thought that cannot be thought.

Truth and Decay in Shakespeare's Sonnets - Essay

In most relevant poems, the image which predominates is that of decay as an external force which assaults a separate and pure beauty e. The speaker, apparently, hesitates before evoking the lurid imagery of corruption from within: Even as the 'it' is spoken, however, it is denied: Indeed, the surprising reversal of the couplet, in which the dying speaker becomes the forsaken rather than the forsaker, the jilted lover rather than the decaying corpse, resonates with and hence reasserts the model of decay posited in the first two quatrains—namely, the assailant-victim model rather than the self-consuming model: Internally generated corruption horrifies the speaker for metaphysical as well as corporeal reasons: Quatrain two begins gently, after a pause, with the calm language of aphorism 'All men make faults' and a rejection of what has been asserted in quatrain one 'and even I in this … Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are'.

The speaker cannot deface his own Ideal; he cannot infect his beloved with the imagery of the cankered rose. In the final ten lines the speaker tries frantically to deflect his hasty words, finally absorbing the stain of his miasmic language by standing in for the young man as the figure of the self-consuming shakespeares sonnet 9 a closer look essay rose: The sequence as a whole reproduces this pattern of assertion and erasure: The speaker's nervous stewardship over his own words evinces Shakespeare's belief in the palpability and viscerality of language, its almost material power.

Words of true faith inscribe the young man into the rock of the earth, into the flesh of the unborn 55, 81. As if absorbing their power to endure, the beloved with such words will pace forth against death like a body resurrected. But the language of decay stains and infects; the very act of speaking corruption may itself corrupt. In 95, for example, decay infects the hand which writes it; rot eats through the speaker's words even as he inscribes them.

  • Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege; The hardest knife ill used doth lose his edge;
  • By following the narrative of Shakespeare's clauses and the plot of his images, I hope to provide a theoretical framework for understanding both the compelling faith of the 'monumentalizing' sonnets and their critically revealed potential for self-consumption;
  • Since everyone hath, every one, one shade, And you, but one, can every shadow lend;
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How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose, Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name! O in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose! That tongue that tells the story of shakespeares sonnet 9 a closer look essay days, Making lascivious comments on thy sport, Cannot dispraise but in a kind of praise; Naming thy name blesses an ill report.

O what a mansion have those vices got Which for their habitation chose out thee, Where beauty's veil doth cover every blot, And all things turns to fair that eyes can see! Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege; The hardest knife ill used doth lose his edge. In line 3, the rot of the canker spots the beauty of the budding rose; in line 6, this 'spot' of corruption begins to eat its way through the word 'sport.

Like the rose, the poem is consumed from within, by the very canker it names: Of course, when restricted to its surface context, the 'ill' of the couplet denotes only the 'misuse' 'ill' use of a knife.

However, it graphically doubles and therefore throws us back to the 'ill' of line 8, which signifies the sickening, staining effect of rumor upon reputation. It is the very subtlety of this associational trace, the very nearly unidentifiable 'spot' embedded in the final 'ill,' which most horrifies the speaker.

Furrows in the brow are the gradual, steady, and immediately recognizable work of a wasting Time e. The speaker well knows, then, that the smallest of spots can lead to eventual ruin. He deploys the infectious images of interior decay more hesitantly, encodes them more subtly in the rest of the sequence.

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In 92, the speaker suspects that the young man is 'inconstant. His criticism of false beauty in sonnet 68, likewise, gathers its intensity from an association with decay. Here the speaker criticizes the 'bastard signs of fair': If cosmetics are the beauty of those the speaker castigates, and cosmetics are also 'the right of sepulchers,' then for these men and women of 'false art,' beauty is itself a form of decay.

Cosmetics will show the blot of this startling association henceforth: Sonnet 68, of course, echoes the 'infection' of 67: