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Shakespeare Sonnet 137: "Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes"

The Shakespeare sonnets play an essential rôle in my poetry world. Those 154 classic sonnets masterfully dramatize truth, beauty, and love.

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 137: "Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes"

In sonnet 137 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, the speaker muses and bemoans the contradictory falsehood that lust engenders between his eyes and his heart. The speaker sees yet he sees not. And through his distorted vision, his heart becomes corrupted. Such a situation cannot remain unattended by this speaker. His has demonstrated his fealty to truth and beauty as he mused on his special talent in his thematic grouping, "The Muse Sonnets." His strong desire to remain right-thinking will no allow him to continue to wallow in sense pleasure that lead him into degradation and sorrow.

Sonnet 137: "Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes"

Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes
That they behold, and see not what they see?
They know what beauty is, see where it lies,
Yet what the best is take the worst to be.
If eyes, corrupt by over-partial looks,
Be anchor’d in the bay where all men ride,
Why of eyes’ falsehood hast thou forged hooks,
Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied?
Why should my heart think that a several plot
Which my heart knows the wide world’s common place?
Or mine eyes, seeing this, say this is not,
To put fair truth upon so foul a face?
In things right true my heart and eyes have err’d,
And to this false plague are they now transferr’d.

Reading of Sonnet 137

Commentary

The speaker in sonnet 137 is attempting to work out the disparity between what his eye sees and what his heart tells him is correct. His eye has led him to experience evil consequences.

First Quatrain: Love and Lust

Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes
That they behold, and see not what they see?
They know what beauty is, see where it lies,
Yet what the best is take the worst to be.

Instead of speaking to his lady-love directly as he usually does in the thematic group called, "Dark Lady Sonnets," the speaker is revealing the falseness and foulness of her character, as he speaks directly to "Love." He is employing the term, "Love," euphemistically; his drama depicting the relationship between his heart and his eyes demonstrates that he is in reality addressing "lust."

The speaker appends his first question, as he often does in this kind of musing. He wishes to know what "Love" does to him to make his eyes not see appropriately. He labels "Love" the "blind fool," as he makes it clear that he is, indeed, the "blind fool." He cannot comprehend that his eyes would betray him; he feels that he is aware of what beauty is, yet when he chances to meet this particular woman, he always manages to become bumfuzzled by her physical beauty.

Second Quatrain: Evil vs Good

If eyes, corrupt by over-partial looks,
Be anchor’d in the bay where all men ride,
Why of eyes’ falsehood hast thou forged hooks,
Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied?

The speaker then begs the logic of "eyes" being placed "in the bay where all men ride," or, he wants to know why should physical appearance to which he has become so favorably drawn render his genitals to flutter in an agitated state. Even more so, he wishes to know why the lie told by his lying eyes is permitted to crook the "judgment of [his] heart."

The speaker is examining the old riddle of the human tendency to want the exact thing that is not beneficial, the very thing, which after promising much pleasure and joy, will do the human mind, heart, and soul the most damage.

Third Quatrain: Swayed by Outward Beauty

Why should my heart think that a several plot
Which my heart knows the wide world’s common place?
Or mine eyes, seeing this, say this is not,
To put fair truth upon so foul a face?

The speaker continues to muse on these questions: he desires to know why his heart can be moved by a woman who behaves as a contemptible harlot. He wonders why he permits an alluring face that he knows is "foul" to tempt him as if it were a representation of "fair truth."

The speaker is again supplying answers to his own rhetorical questions, even as he poses them. The conundrum of human behavior always reveals that that behavior swings like a pendulum between evil and good. His eyes see only the outward beauty, while his mind knows otherwise. But his heart has been swayed by the outward beauty even as it senses that such beauty is only skin deep, and the inner person of this wretched woman is full of deceit.

The Couplet: Bamboozled Error

In things right true my heart and eyes have err’d,
And to this false plague are they now transferr’d.

The speaker concludes that his eyes and thus his heart have been bamboozled; therefore, they "have err’d." He leaves the sonnet still distressed in his sickening situation, asserting that his eyes and heart, and therefore his mind, have been afflicted by "this false plague."

Questions & Answers

Question: Why does the speaker bemoan lust in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 137"?

Answer: Lust blinds him to more important qualities.

Question: Why is love called the "blind fool" in Shakespeare's sonnet 137?

Answer: Instead of speaking to his mistress directly as he usually does in the "dark lady" sonnets, the speaker is revealing the falseness and foulness of her character, as he speaks directly to "Love." But he is employing the term, "Love," euphemistically; his drama depicting the relationship between his heart and his eyes demonstrates that he is, in reality, addressing "lust."

The speaker appends his first question, as he often does in this kind of musing. He wishes to know what "Love" does to him to make his eyes not see appropriately. He labels "Love" the "blind fool," as he makes it clear that he is, indeed, the "blind fool" because of "lust." He cannot comprehend that his eyes would betray him; he feels that he is aware of what beauty is, yet when he chances to meet this particular woman, he always manages to become confused by her physical beauty.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

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