Free College Essays - Shakespeare's Sonnet 147


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Sonnet 147

 

SONNET CXLVII

My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly express'd;
   For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright,
   Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

PARAPHRASE OF SONNET CXLVII

My love is like a fever, still longing,
For that which feeds the disease,
Feeding on that which prolongs the illness,
All to please the unhealthy desires of the body.
My reason, love's doctor,
Angry that I do not follow his directions,
Has left me, and desperate I find that desire
Leads to death, which physic (reason) will not allow.
Now reason is past caring, now I am past cure,
And I am frantic with continual unrest;
My thoughts and my words are like a madman's,
Lies foolishly uttered;
   For I thought you were moral and bright (shining as a star),
   But you really are black as hell and dark as night.

 

Analysis

Shakespeare's scathing attack upon the morality of his mistress exemplifies their tumultuous and perplexing relationship. The three quatrains outline the poet's inner struggle to cope with both his lover's infidelity and the embarrassing self-admission that he still desires her to gratify him sexually, even though she has been with other men. The poet yearns to understand why, in spite of the judgment of reason (5), he still is enslaved by her charms. Confused by his own inexplicable urges, the poet's whole being is at odds with his insatiable "sickly appetite" (4) for the dark lady. He deduces in the final quatrain that he surely must be insane, for he calls his mistress just and moral when she obviously is neither. Not until later sonnets (150-1) do we see a change of tone and a cool-headed acknowledgment of the recklessness of the whole affair. In Sonnet 151, the poet admits that he cannot continue the relationship because it betrays his "nobler part" (6) i.

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Related Searches




e. his soul, and in Sonnet 152 we are witness to the end of the affair.

Is Sonnet 147 autobiographical? Did Shakespeare really have an affair with a raven-haired seducer? Critics are divided on this matter, and, until some new documents are uncovered, we shall never know the truth. Attempts have been made to solicit possible historical candidates for the role of the dark lady, based on their likely association with Shakespeare. The most famous contenders are Mary Fitton, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth; Lucy Morgan, a brothel owner; and Emilia Lanier, the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, patron of the arts. I'll leave you with a skeptic's view of the autobiographical nature of the sonnets:

Every sonneteer of the 16th century, at some point in his career, devoted his energies to vituperation of a cruel siren....In Shakespeare's early life the convention was wittily parodied by Gabriel Harvey in "An Amorous Odious sonnet entitled The Student's Loove or Hatrid, or both or neither, or what shall please the looving or hating reader, either in sport or in earnest, to make of such contrary passions as are here discoursed". The Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets may therefore be relegated to the ranks of the creatures of his fancy. It is quite possible that he may have met in real life a dark-complexioned siren, and it is possible that he may have fared ill at her disdainful hands. But it was the exacting conventions of the sonneteering contagion, and not his personal experiences or emotions, that impelled Shakespeare to give the dark lady of his sonnets a poetic being" (Tyler 359).

 

Notes

sickly ] Love as a sickness is the primary motif of the sonnet. Notice Shakespeare's word choices: fever (1), disease (2), ill (3), physician (5), prescription (6), physic (8), death (8), and cure (9). Also note the more subtle word play with physician and physic. The focus on illness might be connected to venereal disease. Note Sonnet 144, "Till my bad angel fire my good one out" (14). Many critics believe this is a direct reference to a sexually transmitted disease.

the physician to my love ] The poet's reason acts as his doctor, advising him on the proper course of action. In the next line we see that death is not a remedy which the physician will allow the poet.

 


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