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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. Read the rest of this entry

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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. Read the rest of this entry

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. Read the rest of this entry