The Beauty of Sonnet 53

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The Beauty of Sonnet 53

Whether we realize it or not, we often give overlook the faults in the people who are dear to us. We focus on their good qualities and ignore the bad. This practice is not unique to our culture nor is it unique to our era. Shakespeare in his sonnet numbered 53, compares all beauty to his friend, and criticizes for trying to be as good as his friend. He does this by seemingly comparing his friend to things of beauty when in reality he is suggesting that his friend is the ideal and the beautiful things are merely copies or reflections of the friend.

In choosing the words to describe the person in this sonnet, Shakespeare grabs hold of "what is loveliest in the world at large,"1 In the first two lines, Shakespeare asks what his friend is made of: "What is your substance, whereof are you made, /That millions of strange shadows on you tend?"2 Here he is asking how it is that shadows not produced by the person can be seen on him. He continues to elaborate on this question with the suggestion of his friend's indistinctness "as though he were a versatile actor whose true self were never disclosed."3 He writes: "Since every one hath, every one, one shade, /And you, but one, can every shadow lend."4 The friend does not have a single shadow

as others do but in spite of being a single person, reflects the image of everything that is beautiful. The poet plays with words when he writes "every one hath, every one, one shade."5 He is not emphasizing the word "one" but is using it to suggest the complexity of his subject and to imply that "one is, or may be, more and other than one"6 because this is how the friend seems to him.

The next two lines of the sonnet tell how the revered Adonis i...

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...oble, 1968) 130.

2 William Shakespeare, Sonnet 53 The Sonnets (Waltham, Massachusetts: Blaisdell, 1968) 55.

3 Winny 130.

4 Shakespeare 55.

5 Shakespeare 55.

6 Shakespeare 55.

7 Shakespeare 55.

8 Winny 132.

9 Winny 131.

10 Shakespeare 55.

11 Shakespeare 55.

12 Shakespeare 55.

13 G. Wilson Knight, The Mutual Flame: on Shakespeare's Sonnets and The Phoenix and the Turtle (London: Methuen, 1955) 118.

Works Cited

Alpers, Paul J. ed. Elizabethan Poetry: Modern Essays in Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, 1967.

Knight, G. Wilson. The Mutual Flame: on Shakespeare's Sonnets andThe Phoenix and the Turtle. London: Methuen, 1955.

Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 53 The Sonnets. Waltham, MA: Blaisdell, 1968.

Winny, James. The Master-Mistress: A Study of Shakespeare's Sonnets. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968.
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