Professor Alex Quinlan
4 September 2015
A Response to Shakespeare’s Sonnets
William Shakespeare is a one of the most famous writers in history. Everyone with a high school education has probably read a Shakespearean play. This was where I first exposed to work by Shakespeare. I will be discussing ten of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which explore his feelings for an unidentified addressee.
When reading a poem about love written by a man, typically you’d think that it was written about a woman. When reading Sonnet I, I made the assumption that the subject was a woman he wanted to have children with. Shakespeare writes in the second to last line of Sonnet I “pity the world.” I interpreted that as the person should reproduce for the sake of passing on their beauty and that Shakespeare was the person they should reproduce with. Initially, I was confused by the line in Sonnet XIII which declares “You had a father: let your son say so.” I was in the mindset that the person being addressed was a woman. Why would it be important for her to have a son? After thinking about that line, I realized he was writing about a man that should be a father to a son. This made me question what kind of relationship Shakespeare had with his man. Was their relationship strictly a platonic friendship or was there something more to it? Nowadays I can’t really imagine a heterosexual man telling his male friend that he should be having children because he’s so attractive.
There are recurring motifs that the man should be reproducing and time passing will affect his youthful beauty. This reminds me of the Lana Del Rey song “Young and Beautiful.” The first part of the chorus of this song is “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and ...
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...turns sexist in Sonnet CXLIV. Shakespeare describes his lovers, as “the better angel is a man right fair, the worser spirit a woman coloured ill.” Even though he has a mistress, he still has feelings for the man and views him more favorably than the woman. Shakespeare suspects that his good angel has been corrupted. While Shakespeare often talked about the addressee’s youthfulness, his age is unknown so he could have been very young when Shakespeare met him. Depending on the age of the person, I don’t think having sex would corrupt him. Unless it was a case of rape, both parties actively mutually agreed upon the sex. Shakespeare summarizes his feelings in the last lines of Sonnet CXLIV by expressing “Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt, till my bad angel fire my good one out.” He does not know the truth about what happened so he’ll live doubting himself.
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