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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 38: ‘How can my Muse want subject to invent’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 38th sonnet

We continue our exploration and analysis of Shakespeare’s sonnets this week with, predictably enough after Sonnet 37 last week, Sonnet 38. This is another poem about the Bard’s poetic inspiration, and explores the Fair Youth’s role as Shakespeare’s ‘muse’.

How can my Muse want subject to invent,
While thou dost breathe, that pour’st into my verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse?
O! give thy self the thanks, if aught in me
Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;
For who’s so dumb that cannot write to thee,
When thou thy self dost give invention light?
Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;
And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
Eternal numbers to outlive long date.
If my slight muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise. Read the rest of this entry


A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 37: ‘As a decrepit father takes delight’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 37th sonnet

Sonnet 37 is not a classic Shakespeare sonnet. But it does contain some interesting aspects which careful analysis can help us to elucidate. The poem is an extended riff on the idea of Shakespeare as an old, lame, decrepit figure, contrasted with the Fair Youth’s young sprightliness.

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth;
For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts, do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am sufficed,
And by a part of all thy glory live.
Look what is best, that best I wish in thee:
This wish I have; then ten times happy me. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 36: ‘Let me confess that we two must be twain’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 36th sonnet

‘Let me confess that we two must be twain.’ Things are beginning to fall apart here, and the honeymoon period between Shakespeare and the Fair Youth gives way to Sonnet 36, the first of what are sometimes called the ‘separation sonnets’. Analysing his relationship with the young man, Shakespeare comes to the conclusion that, whilst their love for each other makes them one, they must remain two separate people. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who made some rather odd choices when discussing Shakespeare’s Sonnets) thought this one of the finest in the whole sequence; whether we agree with him, it’s certainly worthy of closer analysis.

Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one:
So shall those blots that do with me remain,
Without thy help, by me be borne alone.
In our two loves there is but one respect,
Though in our lives a separable spite,
Which though it alter not love’s sole effect,
Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love’s delight.
I may not evermore acknowledge thee,
Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,
Nor thou with public kindness honour me,
Unless thou take that honour from thy name:
But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
As thou being mine, mine is thy good report. Read the rest of this entry