Warnings in Shakespeare's Sonnet 95 Essay

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Warnings in Shakespeare's Sonnet 95

     William Shakespeare is the master of subtle humor and sexual puns.  In his "Sonnet 95," a poem to a blond young man, both are seen while pointing out a couple of realities about sexual sin.  He speaks directly to a young man whose physical beauty compensates for his lack of sexual morality.  


Shakespeare would like for this young man to realize that his handsomeness is

the sole aspect of his person that prevents absolute disapproval of his

behavior in other people, and he also wants him to be aware of the ultimate

consequences of his actions.  Through a clever use of diction, imagery, and

meter in a typical Shakespearian format, Shakespeare warns his young friend

of the risks involved with the overindulgence of sexual activity.


In the first quatrain, Shakespeare presents the young man to the readers

by contrasting his beauty and his character.  He tells the young man that he

renders "shame" (1) "sweet and lovely" (1).  That is, he is much too handsome

to be overshadowed by his questionable conduct.  His "shame" may not be a

dominant trait, but it does sneak around behind the scenes "like a canker"

(2).  A canker is a nasty internal ulceration, or growth; it is a flaw that

cannot be seen in an otherwise beautiful object, such as a "fragrant rose"

(2).  This flaw in the young man, sexual vice, may "spot" (3), or taint his

image later on in his life, as he is still "budding" (3); he is still young,

and there is plenty of time for his reputation to be completely damaged by

his sexual impropriety.  This young man is indeed beautiful and he is lucky

to have such "swee...

... middle of paper ... slyly and jovially slips in the idea that if the

young man is careless, he will spend his allowance of energy before his time

comes; that is to say, he will become sexually impotent.  This image is

brilliantly conjured up with the picture of a dull knife that will cut no

more after years of its owner using it as a hatchet.  The simple lightness of

his joke is expressed through the simple evenness of the iambic pentameter

throughout the couplet, and its straightforwardness adds to the wryness of

the humor.


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. "Sonnet 95." The Norton Anthology of English

Literature.  Eds. M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. Seventh ed. 2 vols.

New York: Norton, 2000. 1:1041-42.


Works Consulted

Oxford English Dictionary. Eds. James A. H. Murray, et. al.  Oxford, 1961.

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