William Shakespeare's sonnets deal with two very distinct individuals: the blond young man and the mysterious dark-haired woman. The young man is the focus of the earlier numbered sonnets while the latter ones deal primarily with the dark-haired woman. The character of the young man and a seductive mistress are brought together under passionate circumstances in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 42." The sexual prowess of the mistress entangles both Shakespeare and the young man in her web of flesh. This triangular sonnet brings out Shakespeare's affection for both individuals. His narcissistic ideal of delusional love for the young man is shown through diction and imagery, metrical variation and voice, contained in three quatrains and one couplet.
The first quatrain introduces the surreal relationship between the young man and the poet in the choice of diction that is used. The first line of the sonnet "That thou hast her," uses strong alliterative qualities in the stressed first syllables of each word. In doing so, the imagery that is created is one of conceit and arrogance on the behalf of Shakespeare. Generally, a man who has been cuckold by the infidelities of his mistress is not so swift to forgive his betrayer. Instead, he narcissistically tells the friend that the affair is "not all [his] grief" (1). Likewise, Shakespeare alternately uses hypermetric and iambic lines in the first quatrain. Lines one and three are regular iambic pentameter but lines two and four are hypermetrical iambic pentameter. When referring to the young man and the pseudo-importance of their relationship, Shakespeare implements regular iambic pentameter, trying to convince the rea...
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...ays him. He tricks himself into believing that he and his friend are such kindred spirits that they are truly one in mind, body and spirit, when in fact, they are not. The final line of the sonnet begins with an initial spondee, "Sweet flattery" (14) in which Shakespeare himself is admitting how sweet delusion really is, and ends in a terminal spondee, "me alone" (14) showing that the young man and Shakespeare were really never more than acquaintances that loved the same woman.] Through a figment of his imagination, he developed a mythical relationship with the young man when in fact, the only really loving relationship he had was with his own pretentious subconscious.
Shakespeare, William, "Sonnet 42." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Eds. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 7th ed. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 2000. 1:1033.
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