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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 82: ‘I grant thou wert not married to my Muse’

A commentary on a classic Shakespeare sonnet

‘I grant thou wert not married to my Muse’ is the 82nd sonnet in Shakespeare’s sequence of 154 sonnets charting the romantic drama that’s played out between the poet, the Fair Youth, the Dark Lady, and the rival poet. In this poem, Shakespeare genteelly criticises his contemporaries who excessively praise beauty in their poems, arguing that when a poet is writing about the beauty of the Fair Youth, Shakespeare’s way – telling the truth and speaking plainly – is much more effective. Before we offer some words of analysis of Sonnet 82, here is the poem.

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,
And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise;
And therefore art enforced to seek anew
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 81: ‘Or I shall live your epitaph to make’

A reading of a classic Shakespeare sonnet

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 81 (‘Or I shall live your epitaph to make’) is another poem that deals with the notion of immortality through poetry: the poet will make the Fair Youth live on through his verses about him. Stephen Booth, in his analysis of the Sonnets, has nearly five whole pages of annotations on Sonnet 81, indicating that, whilst its meaning may seem clear enough, it has hidden ambiguities.

Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten,
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read;
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73: ‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold’

A reading of a classic Shakespeare sonnet

‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold’ is one of the most widely anthologised sonnets by William Shakespeare, and is often praised as one of the most successfully constructed, and most moving, of all the Sonnets. Before we proceed to a brief analysis of Sonnet 73, here’s a reminder of the poem.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Before we roll up our sleeves and analyse Sonnet 73, here’s a brief paraphrase of its meaning: ‘Fair Youth, you can see in me a reflection of the autumnal and wintry time of year, when yellow leaves, or none, or few, hang upon the trees; the branches of such trees are like the choirs in monasteries, since they were once home to “sweet birds” who sang, but are now bare. Read the rest of this entry