Shakespeare Sonnet 113

Updated on July 23, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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 113

Sonnet 113 finds the speaker again addressing his muse. He notices that while not directly engaging her during his act of creating and crafting his art, his mind continues to fancy her as he observes nature. He is thus examining the dual nature of the creative spirit in humanity.

The deeply discerning speaker is elucidating the fact that the human soul and the concept of a "muse" are mutual. The soul, which is eternal and immortal, is also all powerful, as it is a spark of the Divine Creator. The speaker therefore has become aware of the limitless potential of his spiritual element, his muse, and he now is capable of demonstrating that that power moves in all directions of creativity.

Sonnet 113: Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind

Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape, which it doth latch:
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
For if it see the rud’st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour or deformed’st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature:
Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus maketh mine untrue.

A rough paraphrase of sonnet 113 might sound something like the following:

From the time that I allowed myself to ignore you, my mind has become like an eyeball that cannot see the reality of your nature and all you afford me. It seems to see but, in fact, is put out. Without you, I can detect no inner guidance, and natural objects fall flat against mental uncertainly. Seeing remains limited, even as things take on your truest form. Unable to create according to the dictates of truth, all things seem to betray me.

Reading of "Sonnet 113"


The speaker’s obsession with creating poetry in the presence of his mystical muse is given a thorough examination, as he compares his creative mind and his physical eye.

First Quatrain: The Power of the Image

Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;

The speaker observes that while his eye is not trained directly on his muse, his mind takes up her image still. It affects how he looks at things in his environment. His physical, that is, literal eye appears to abandon its "function and is partly blind." He is exaggerating as he claims that his eye cannot function with the same visual ability as it does when he remains in the presence of his muse.

The speaker then interprets the function of "seeing" as a concept of the mind. As he is composing his works, he remains so self-aware as a creator that he feels that he is literally capable of seeing with his mind. The act of seeing with the mind, however, cannot be a literal function, but it works quite well figuratively. But for this obsessed speaker, his act of creating has almost become his only endeavor; therefore, even while he is not literally creating, his mind in the background continues to engage in creative musing.

Second Quatrain: The Affinity for Framing Nature

For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape, which it doth latch:
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;

The objects that the speaker’s physical eye sees, whether it be "bird, or flower, or shape," do not register "to the heart" as those entities do during his full engagement with the muse. Merely observing one of nature’s creatures is not enough for this speaker whose affinity is for framing nature in sonnets. This speaker can enjoy his own sense perceptions such as vision only when he is able to amplify them through the lens of his considerable talent. The speaker’s obsession is the constant thread that sews all of the sonnets tightly together.

As perceptive readers have begun to notice, this speaker delves deeply into his own heart, mind, and soul. He is never content to accept the superficial but instead finds that the path to reality remains paved with much deep thinking, delving, and diving for the pearls of wisdom offered by the Universal Reality. He has made it his mission to touch that Reality and report his findings to the best of his considerable ability.

Third Quatrain: Muse is All

For if it see the rud’st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour or deformed’st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature:

When the speaker observes anything excerpted from the pairs of opposites that comprise the physical level of being, his mind automatically imposes mystical muse-like qualities upon those natural features. This practice demonstrates the intense relationship between the speaker and his eternal energy, his muse. The muse is everything to the speaker, and he perceives the muse in everything. He demonstrates the qualities of a devotee of pantheism in his art.

The speaker's deeply spiritual striving has resulted in his ability to perceive the universal presence of the Great Spirit that dominates even as it creates the Cosmic Reality. His own observation and practice through writing has led him to the profound understanding of both language and the way the world works. That understanding furthermore bestows on this exceptional scribbler the acclaimed title of bard, who will in future become a force with which to reckon.

The Couplet: Appreciation for the Muse

Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus maketh mine untrue.

Because the speaker deems himself "incapable" of anything without the muse, he appreciates her all the more. He feels completed by the magnitude of the muse’s omnipresence. His muse always remains "[his] most true mind"; thus, his ordinary mind is a less capable entity and therefore "untrue." Because the muse resides in the mystical realm of existence along with the soul, this speaker has taken on or become united with his omniscient soul because of his dependence and connection with his muse.

Such dedication to the lofty pursuit of excellence results in finely crafted sonnets and other writings that will fill the future literary world with its masterpieces. This bard's deep comprehension along with his adherence to basic principles will keep him in good stead along his path to creating a masterfully tuned canon of poetic dramas and comedies in his plays as well as in his perfectly pitched sonnets and other poems.


A Brief Overview: 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."

Roger Stritmatter – He Who Takes the Pain to Pen the Book: The Poetry of the 17th Earl of Oxford

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