Shakespeare Sonnet 102: "My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming"

Updated on December 18, 2017
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Shakespeare Sonnet Titles

The Shakespeare Sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel:

"When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text."

APA does not address this issue.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The read "Shakespeare"
The read "Shakespeare" | Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 102

In sonnet 102, the speaker is musing on the nature and purpose of keeping his creations lean and crisp. He asserts that too much effusion just stands in the way of understanding and the message can be lost. This speaker's primary focus is always on the best manner in which he can convey his message of love, truth, and beauty.

Sonnet 102

My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming
I love not less, though less the show appear:
That love is merchandiz’d whose rich esteeming
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,
Because I would not dull you with my song.

Reading of Sonnet 102


First Quatrain: "My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming"

Sonnet 102 finds the speaker addressing a general listener. He is dramatizing his feelings about allowing ideas to remain unexpressed. As he conveys the notion that "less is more," he emphasizes that such a concept is especially necessary when broaching the subject of love. At the same times, he makes it clear that even if he understresses his love, that love never becomes less. If the lover speaks of his love too enthusiastically and too often that love become "merchandize'd."

By scattering his emotion to vehemently and frequently, the lover's emotion begins to appear insincere and false. Readers have come to rely on this speaker's obsession with truth, balance, harmony, and beauty. He cherishes these qualities for his art; thus, the quintessential artist in this speaker requires him to be in search of the nearly perfect, harmonious balance in art as well as in his life.

Second Quatrain: "Our love was new, and then but in the spring"

The speaker's initial awareness that his Muse was operative in his work fostered a strong relationship of love for the speaker with that Muse. This love relationship urged him to create dramatic and melodious sonnets. He alludes to Philomel, the Greek character from mythology that became a nightingale, as he asserts that despite the depth of his love, too excessive a singing would become regressive. Thus, he stresses the necessity of moderation in expressing his truest feelings.

The speaker then will calm his "pipe" like the birds that in summer begin to control their own singing. He stresses that such discipline will result in harmony. Lest his heartfelt longings lead him into wallowing in the slime of zealotry, he will show that he has the ability to remain moderate. He is able to balance his joys and sorrows because he recognizes and comprehends the nature of the onslaught of the promptings of excess in which the human heart and mind are wont to engage.

Third Quatrain: "Not that the summer is less pleasant now"

By the third quatrain, the speaker becomes desirous of conveying the message that the moderation he employs allows the summer of his love to remain and continue to demonstrate all the qualities that make summer and love agreeable to the human psyche. He insists that "wild music" and "mournful hymns" display at to high a decibel level and thus assault the ears of listeners, interfering with their ability to convey their message.

The artist who remains focused on accuracy will never engage in heavy and tinsel-like embellishment. Even though the qualities of overly dramatic discourse may seem appealing at first, they lose their attraction through overuse. This speaker understands that too much of any physical property will diminish its attraction eventually. He then asserts colorfully, "sweets grown common lose their dear delight."

The Couplet: "Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue"

The speaker reasons that his self-discipline remains supported by valid principles. So instead of over-drama coupled with mere lovely verbiage, this speaker will carefully orchestrate his works, keep them crisp and clean. His creations will render the reader satisfied and not bedazzled by a lot of excess effusion. He will always keep his reading audience in mind so that his works may be understood in the clear and bright terms the speaker/writer has used to produced them.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


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