Shakespeare Sonnet 105 - Owlcation - Education
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Shakespeare Sonnet 105

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 105

In sonnet 105, the speaker creates a new trinity, an artist's trinity perhaps, consisting of the three qualities, "fair, kind, and true." He begins by railing against the blasphemy of "idolatry," as he demonstrates that his devotion is dedicated to only One Being.

As the speaker declares that he will not have his beloved thought of as "an idol show," he is employing a pun on the term "idol." In his usage, he is working the term to mean both "idol" and "idle." Thus he is warning against interpreting his love as "idolatry" and his beloved as a graven image or a meaningless demonstration.

Sonnet 105

Let not my love be call’d idolatry
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse, to constancy confin’d,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ is all my argument,
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ have often liv’d alone,
Which three till now never kept seat in one.

Reading of Sonnet 105

Commentary

The speaker in sonnet 105 is enshrining an artist’s holy trinity of "fair, kind, and true," a reflection of his beloved subjects of beauty, love, and truth.

First Quatrain: No Mere Idol Worship

Let not my love be call’d idolatry
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 105, the speaker exhorts his listener/reader not to interpret his reverence to his beloved as idol worship and by extension not to think of the object of his passion as a trivial target. He does not put on display his discourse for the purpose of pomp and glitter. His poetry not only reflects his considerable talent, but it also engages the world with respect and love for its subject matter.

The speaker insists that his entire canon speaks with a unity that no one can denigrate or deny. He praises only one and that one is the spiritual reality that creates and upholds all creation. Nevertheless, this speaker time and time again demonstrates that his particular interest and talent lay in creating poems about love, beauty, and truth. All of his "songs and praises" pay homage to the reality he calls, "my beloved."

Second Quatrain: Reality Stabilized

Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse, to constancy confin’d,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.

The consistency of this speaker's love stabilizes his reality, and his poetry reflects this stability. His love is "kind" "to-day" and "to-morrow." It is by grace and "a wondrous excellence" that he has the ability to devote himself so single-mindedly to his preoccupation. His poetry shines as a monument to "constancy."

Because of this dedication, this devoted speaker is committed to conveying a single message, which "leaves out difference." Without such a focused heart and mind, "difference" would sever his grasp and break the concentration required to remain integrated with his soul power.

Third Quatrain: A Holy Trinity of Art

‘Fair, kind, and true,’ is all my argument,
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.

The speaker then spells out his stance; he argues only for what is "fair, kind, and true." These seemingly three qualities become a trinity for his invention: "three themes in one." The speaker alludes to the mystery of the holy trinity, wherein abide three Gods in one. And as the holy trinity upholds and explains the nature of spirit, this speaker/poet’s trinity offers "wondrous scope."

The Couplet: Chanting Its Name

‘Fair, kind, and true,’ have often liv’d alone,
Which three till now never kept seat in one.

The speaker repeats the three names that compose his artist's trinity: "Fair, kind, and true." This trinity is so important that he has now chanted its name a third time. The speaker then reveals that the ordinary usage of these terms would define each separately.

However, in this speaker/artist's cosmogony, these three when taken together create a fresh reality that until he had thought them into existence had never combined to create the one that he now maintains. He regards his position as a king reigns over a kingdom or as the Great Spirit Creator reigns over His creation.

The real "Shakespeare"

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

A Brief Overview of the 154-Sonnet Sequence

Scholars and critics of Elizabethan literature have determined that the sequence of 154 Shakespeare sonnets may be classified into three thematic categories: (1) Marriage Sonnets 1-17; (2) Muse Sonnets 18-126, traditionally identified as the "Fair Youth"; and (3) Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154.

Marriage Sonnets 1-17

The speaker in the Shakespeare “Marriage Sonnets” pursues a single goal: to persuade a young man to marry and produce beautiful offspring. It is likely that the young man is Henry Wriothesley, the third earl of Southampton, who is being urged to marry Elizabeth de Vere, the oldest daughter of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Many scholars and critics now argue persuasively that Edward de Vere is the writer of the works attributed to the nom de plume, "William Shakespeare." For example, Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets has opined:

Conceiv'd out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, with its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the "wolfish earls" so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.

For more information regarding Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the real writer of the Shakespearean canon, please visit The De Vere Society, an organization that is "dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford."

Muse Sonnets 18-126 (Traditionally classified as "Fair Youth")

The speaker in this section of sonnets is exploring his talent, his dedication to his art, and his own soul power. In some sonnets, the speaker addresses his muse, in others he addresses himself, and in others he even addresses the poem itself.

Even though many scholars and critics have traditionally categorized this group of sonnets as the "Fair Youth Sonnets," there is no "fair youth," that is "young man," in these sonnets. There is no person at all in this sequence, with exception of the two problematic sonnets, 108 and 126.

Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154

The final sequence targets an adulterous romance with a woman of questionable character; the term “dark” likely modifies the woman’s character flaws, not her skin tone.

Three Problematic Sonnets: 108, 126, 99

Sonnet 108 and 126 present a problem in categorization. While most of the sonnets in the "Muse Sonnets" do focus on the poet's musings about his writing talent and do not focus on a human being, sonnets 108 and 126 are speaking to a young man, respectively calling him "sweet boy" and "lovely boy." Sonnet 126 presents an additional problem: it is not technically a "sonnet," because it features six couplets, instead of the traditional three quatrains and a couplet.

The themes of sonnets 108 and 126 would better categorize with the "Marriage Sonnets" because they do address a "young man." It is likely that sonnets 108 and 126 are at least partially responsible for the erroneous labeling of the "Muse Sonnets" as the "Fair Youth Sonnets" along with the claim that those sonnets address a young man.

While most scholars and critics tend to categorize the sonnets into the three-themed schema, others combine the "Marriage Sonnets" and the "Fair Youth Sonnets" into one group of "Young Man Sonnets." This categorization strategy would be accurate if the "Muse Sonnets" actually addressed a young man, as only the "Marriage Sonnets" do.

Sonnet 99 might be considered somewhat problematic: it features 15 lines instead of the traditional 14 sonnet lines. It accomplishes this task by converting the opening quatrain into a cinquain, with an altered rime scheme from ABAB to ABABA. The rest of the sonnet follows the regular rime, rhythm, and function of the traditional sonnet.

The Two Final Sonnets

Sonnets 153 and 154 are also somewhat problematic. They are classified with the Dark Lady Sonnets, but they function quite differently from the bulk of those poems.

Sonnet 154 is a paraphrase of Sonnet 153; thus, they carry the same message. The two final sonnets dramatize the same theme, a complaint of unrequited love, while outfitting the complaint with the dress of mythological allusion. The speaker employs the services of the Roman god Cupid and the goddess Diana. The speaker thus achieves a distance from his feelings, which he, no doubt, hopes will finally liberate him from the clutches of his lust/love and bring him equanimity of mind and heart.

In the bulk of the "dark lady" sonnets, the speaker has a been addressing the woman directly, or making it clear that what he is saying is intended for her ears. In the final two sonnets, the speaker is not directly addressing the mistress. He does mention her, but he is speaking now about her instead of directly to her. He is now making it quite clear that he is withdrawing from the drama with her.

Readers may sense that he has grown battle-weary from his struggle for the woman’s respect and affection, and now he has finally decided to make a philosophical drama that heralds the end of that disastrous relationship, announcing essentially, "I’m through."

Did Shakespeare Really Write Shakespeare? – Tom Regnier

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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