Shakespeare Sonnet 150 - Owlcation - Education
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Shakespeare Sonnet 150

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 150

In sonnet 150, again the speaker poses questions to the mistress, and again they are questions that only he can answer. The form of questioning is merely a rhetorical device and is not concerned with gathering answers from this person, who he knows would not have the intelligence to answer anyway.

Sonnet 150

O! from what power hast thou this powerful might
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O! though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state:
If thy unworthiness rais’d love in me,
More worthy I to be belov’d of thee.

Reading of Sonnet 150

Commentary

The speaker of the "dark lady" sonnets has become addicted to this form of poetic rhetoric, employing it often, posing four questions in the quatrains of sonnet 150.

First Quatrain: Two Questions

O! from what power hast thou this powerful might
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?

The first quatrain contains two questions: where does it come from, this force you exert to cause my heart to bend to your wishes? He adds that even though she posses this "powerful might," he labels it "with insufficiency" making it known that he understands how lame her power really is.

The weakness of her power reveals ever more clearly how wretched the speaker has become from all of his attention paid to this unworthy woman. He knows she can only do him harm, weaken his resolve to live a moral life, distract him from his previously stated goals of the pursuit of truth and beauty. His outbursts cause his sonnets to resemble a confessional, but instead of dumping his sins onto a priest, he crafts them into works of art.

His second question asks how she has the power to make him see what is not there. His sight becomes so distorted that he has not the ability to aver that the sun shines. Her ability to attract him to filth closes his eyes to all else that is good, clean, and bright.

Second Quatrain: Turning Everything Disgusting

Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?

The third question takes up the entire second quatrain: how is it that you have the muscle to cause everything to turn disgusting and with "such strength" to cause "my mind" to believe that the worst things you do are better than the best that can be done.

The speaker, at this point, becomes nearly mad with a confused brain. Knowing that the woman is immoral, yet feeling without power to struggle against the attraction he maintains for her, he can only moan and complain bitterly in sonnet after dramatic sonnet.

Third Quatrain: Distorting His Feelings

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O! though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state:

The final question takes up the first two lines of the third quatrain: "who taught thee" how to distort my feelings? The more he experiences her harmful ways, that is, the more he experiences the things he knows he should hate, the more he appears to love her, or be attracted to her.

Although he seems to love what other people, who think with clarity, hate, he admonishes that her she should not agree with the others who find his own state of mind hateful. He seems always to be telling her what to think and feel, knowing his advice never exerts any awareness in her.

The Couplet: The Uncomprehending

If thy unworthiness rais’d love in me,
More worthy I to be belov’d of thee.

The speaker then sums up his rhetorical questioning with a strange remark: since the "dark lady's" lack of worth has influenced him to be attracted to her, somehow it seems to follow that he is "worthy" of her love and affection. If the woman were capable of understanding such logic, not even this small brained "dark lady" would agree with such a sham.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The Mystery of Shakespeare

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on March 29, 2018:

Louise, thank you for the kind words. I'm glad to have you as a reader. I do enjoy your feedback.

I enjoy writing the pieces. Writing about them offers a way of delving deeper into each poem in order to get its full impact. And then researching the the poets' lives offers another profound activity that broadens my own knowledge base from which to comment.

Thanks again, Louise! Always love hearing your thoughts.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 28, 2018:

I like following your hubs on poetry, I do enjoy reading them.

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