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Shakespeare Sonnet 143

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 143

The speaker in Sonnet 143 uses a complex structure of adverbial clauses to express his notion that as a housewife runs after her fleeing bird (first quatrain), while her infant tries to follow her and wails after her (second quatrain), thus the speaker behaves toward his dark beauty (third quatrain), therefore he will make a plea (couplet).

Sonnet 143

Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch
One of her feather’d creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe, and makes all quick dispatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;
Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent:
So runn’st thou after that which flies from thee,
Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;
But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
And play the mother’s part, kiss me, be kind;
So will I pray that thou mayst have thy Will,
If thou turn back and my loud crying still.

Reading of Sonnet 143

Commentary

The speaker is likening himself to a naughty baby who chases and cries for his mother after she speeds off to fetch a fleeing chicken.

First Quatrain: A Chase Scene

Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch
One of her feather’d creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe, and makes all quick dispatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;

The speaker creates a dramatic scene in which a "careful housewife runs to catch / One of her feather’d creatures" that has managed to escape the coop and is fleeing to parts unknown. The housewife, who is also a mother, plops down her infant and quickly speeds off in quest of the chicken.

The first quatrain offers only one complex clause of the complex sentence of which this sonnet is composed. An entanglement of grammatical and technical elements often pops up in this speaker’s discourse, and his dexterity in sorting them out supplies the evidence that his appraisal of his writing talent is not mere braggadocio in the earlier sonnets.

Second Quatrain: Wailing After His Mother

Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent:

The unfortunate child tries to catch the mother, wailing after her as she chases the bird. The child keeps his eye on his mother, who is hell-bent on retrieving the bird. Although the child is heartbroken while the mother runs after the critter, she is hardly cognizant of her baby at all, because she so covets recovery of the chicken.

Third Quatrain: Hilarious Dramatic Comparison

So runn’st thou after that which flies from thee,
Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;
But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
And play the mother’s part, kiss me, be kind;

In the third quatrain, the speaker then spits out his comparison: the dark mistress plays the role of the mother, while the speaker portrays "[her] babe." The woman continues to fly from the arms of the speaker, chasing the affection of other men.

But the speaker, even as he offers his hilarious dramatic comparison, also hopes to soften the woman’s heart by asserting that the mother will eventually return to her babe and shower him with kisses and be kind to him. He is urging the lady to behave similarly towards him.

The Couplet: Punning His Pen-Name

So will I pray that thou mayst have thy Will,
If thou turn back and my loud crying still.

The speaker has become so enamored of his "Will" pun that he exploits it again in this sonnet. He will "pray" that the woman "may[ ] have [her] Will." Punning on his pseudonym, he claims he is praying that she achieve her wishes by returning to him.

Whatever she is chasing, whether sexual gratification or vanity of some sort, the speaker tries to assure her that he can fulfill her desires, if only she will "turn back" to him and stop his "crying" for her.

The real "Shakespeare"

Shakespeare Authorship / Crackpot to Mainstream

Questions & Answers

Question: Can you summarize what's happening in Shakespeare Sonnet 143?

Answer: The speaker in Sonnet 143 uses a complex structure of adverbial clauses to express his notion that as a housewife runs after her fleeing bird (first quatrain), while her infant tries to follow her and wails after her (second quatrain), thus the speaker behaves toward his dark beauty (third quatrain), therefore he will make a plea (couplet).

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

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