A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 45: ‘The other two, slight air and purging fire’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 45th sonnet

As the opening line of this poem, ‘The other two, slight air and purging fire’, makes clear, Sonnet 45 is very much the companion-piece to Sonnet 44, which had pondered Shakespeare’s separation from the Fair Youth by drawing on two of the four classical elements, earth and water. In Sonnet 45, he turns to ‘the other two’, air and fire:

The other two, slight air and purging fire,
Are both with thee, wherever I abide;
The first my thought, the other my desire,
These present-absent with swift motion slide.
For when these quicker elements are gone
In tender embassy of love to thee,
My life, being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy;
Until life’s composition be recured
By those swift messengers return’d from thee,
Who even but now come back again, assured
Of thy fair health, recounting it to me:

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 44: ‘If the dull substance of my flesh were thought’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 44th sonnet

‘If the dull substance of my flesh were thought, / Injurious distance should not stop my way’: yes, sonnet 44 in Shakespeare’s Sonnets is another poem about the long-distance love Shakespeare bears the Fair Youth. This sonnet generally requires less critical analysis than most of the Sonnets, but nevertheless a few words of summary and explication help to show how Shakespeare’s poem uses the scientific ideas of his age to highlight the plight of the long-distance lover.

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43: ‘When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 43rd sonnet

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43 opens with an apparent paradox: ‘When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see’. How can you see most clearly when your eyes are, in fact, closed? The answer: when you’re dreaming. This is another one of William Shakespeare’s sleep sonnets, returning to a theme first explored in Sonnet 27.

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 42: ‘That thou hast her it is not all my grief’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 42nd sonnet

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 42 doesn’t exactly provide the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything – nor is it the finest sonnet in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. But it’s nevertheless interesting in the sequence because of the further light it sheds on the romantic drama unfolding between Shakespeare, the Fair Youth, and the Bard’s mistress (who, for those of you who’ve just come in at this point, has been sleeping with the Fair Youth, it would seem).

That thou hast her it is not all my grief,
And yet it may be said I loved her dearly;
That she hath thee is of my wailing chief,
A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
Loving offenders thus I will excuse ye:
Thou dost love her, because thou know’st I love her;
And for my sake even so doth she abuse me,
Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her.
If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain,
And losing her, my friend hath found that loss;
Both find each other, and I lose both twain,
And both for my sake lay on me this cross:
But here’s the joy; my friend and I are one;
Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 41: ‘Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 41st sonnet

As opening lines go, ‘Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits’ is not up there with some of the opening lines that we’ve had earlier on in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, such as the rightly celebrated opening lines to Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 20. Nevertheless, this poem has some curious features which make it worth closer analysis.

Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits,
When I am sometime absent from thy heart,
Thy beauty, and thy years full well befits,
For still temptation follows where thou art.
Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won,
Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed;
And when a woman woos, what woman’s son
Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed?
Ay me! but yet thou mightst my seat forbear,
And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth,
Who lead thee in their riot even there
Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth:
Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee,
Thine by thy beauty being false to me.

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