In the first line Shakespeare clearly creates an image of his love as a fever, a disease that consumes him and for which the physician can find no cure (line 9). Through a simile in the first line Shakespeare establishes the larger metaphor of the whole sonnet as a fever. Shakespeare would have a strong familiarity with the medical theory and treatments of the era. Early modern medical theory drew strongly from the writings of Hippocrates and the subsequent four humors theory (Garrison 71). The theory of the four humors held that the body was comprised of four basic substances, or humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. If the humors were out of balance this would result in illness; excess of blood increased the temperature of the body and thus caused fever (Garrison 213). Fittingly, an individual with lots of blood was filled with passion – thus the poets excess in passion has led to his fever. In a secondary, yet supportive manner...
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...ion of the truth behind the emotions becomes clear. By the end of the sonnet the speaker is fully over the individual to whom the sonnet is addressed and thus can see the situation with a complete understanding and wisdom of experience. By this means Shakespeare ties in the argument of “The Courtier” as a secondary metaphor to the overall theme of a physical fever.
The speakers progression of emotions and the progression of the fever drive the direction of the sonnet. Each quatrain and the final couplet are a step in the progress towards emotional understanding and a break in the fever of love. His lamenting of his woeful state at the beginning of the poem endures feverish madness but ultimately leads to a clear understanding of the truth of the lover while, most importantly for the speaker: providing a means of overcoming the love – of indeed, breaking the fever.
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