The Mask We Wear: An Analysis of Sonnet 138

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William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 138” depicts the relationship of a couple, who many believe to be the author and his mistress, a woman referred to as the dark lady. The sonnet’s immense use of imagery causes the reader to imagine the sonnet as a play where the characters are covered by masks. Furthermore the sonnet illustrates that through lies, characters are able to hide themselves and become something they are not. By changing oneself, one gives into mediocrity, because if one puts on a mask to be like everyone else, then that individual will never be able to be themselves. Although “Sonnet 138” depicts the speakers’ willingness to settle for false love and put on a mask, Sonnet 138 depicts a relationship that its very survival is based on this deceit.

Shakespeare begins the first quatrain by using sophisticated language to try to confuse the reader, and by doing so creates a sense of wonder in the reader, which causes the reader to become intrigued in the couple’s relationship. Shakespeare uses the poetic device of paronomasia, throughout “Sonnet 138” to demonstrate the idea of duplicity in the relationship of the couple. The use of puns, in “Sonnet 138,” give the reader key insight to better understand the truth that hides behind the mask individuals wear to make themselves feel better. Infidelity is one of the main problems in the relationship between the speaker and the dark lady, and as the speaker states, “When my love swears that she is made of truth … I do believe her, though I know she lies” (Lines 1-2), he seems to doubt the dark lady’s fidelity as if he knew that she is not faithful, and if he knows that she is being unfaithful why does he continue this relationship? The answer is simple, he likes a women’s company. T...

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...ple did in “Sonnet 138”.In addition Shakespeare use of puns also helped shed the light on the truth by allowing individuals to see behind the mask of lies to fully understand the theme of mediocrity in “Sonnet 138”.

Works Cited

"habit, n.". OED Online. June 2011. Oxford University Press. 12 September 2011 .

"maid, n.1". OED Online. September 2011. Oxford University Press. 26 September 2011 .

Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 138: When My Love Swears That She Is Made Of Truth.” Poetry X. Ed. Jough Dempsey. 16 Jun 2003. 12 Sep. 2011 .

"subtle, adj.". OED Online. June 2011. Oxford University Press. 12 September 2011 .

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