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Shakespeare Sonnet 66: "Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry"

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 66: "Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry"

The clever speaker in Shakespeare sonnet 66 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence offers a wish that turns out to be quite an exaggeration in service of a main point. As the speaker offers a lucid and valid condemnation of some of the insane thoughts and movements that lead to mediocrity and actual devaluation of honored traditions, he dramatizes again his own talent for creating little dramas in his sonnets. The speaker's desire to leave all Weltschmerz behind is, however, alleviated by the very act of writing about that world sorrow.

Sonnet 66: "Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry"

Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac’d,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Reading of Sonnet 66

Commentary

In sonnet 66, the speaker is exaggerating his growing weariness with all the negativity that exists on the earthly plane—so much so that he wishes for "restful death."

First Quatrain: A Brash Claim

Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,

In the first quatrain of sonnet 66, the speaker announces his brash claim that he "cries" for "restful death." He makes that cry because he has become fatigued from facing earthly trials and tribulations that are present in various and sundry issues of life in general. The speaker employs the remaining lines of the poem to catalogue those issues that he has become tired of, and he also wishes to show why these things and issues weight so heavy on his heart and mind.

First, the speaker complains that people who appear deserving of a good life are often born into and saddled with abject poverty. Having observed this situation and attempted to understand the implications arising therefrom, the speaker has been rendered tired and weary. The speaker then announces the next installment from his catalogue which contrasts with the initial offering: those who appear less deserving are many times surrounded with the good things of life, as those with a better claim go without.

The speaker next complains that those who live in faith are often dragged down by circumstances nevertheless, despite their continued righteousness. The speaker dramatically emphasizes the contrasts that he has observed which exist on the physical plane, unveiling his disapproval of one while increasing the worth of its opposite.

Second Quatrain: Catalogue of Grievances

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And gilded honour shamefully misplac’d,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,

In the second quatrain, the speaker continues his list-catalogue of grievances: honor is mislaid; virtue is cheapened; perfection fails to reach its goal; strength remains "disabled" as it goes "limping sway." The speaker is reporting generalities that remain accurate for all generations down through history. There is ever a contemporary besmirching of honor that the speaker deems as shameful.

Third Quatrain: Galled to Weltschmerz

And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:

The speaker pressed on with his list of observations of things that gall him to Weltschmerz: art is prostituted by disingenuous movements; folly is perpetuated by "doctor-like" robotic clowns; "simple truth" is rendered simplistic by being falsely labeled "simplicity"; and good is dispossessed by bad.

Contemporary examples of "art made tongue-tied by authority" are the movements in modernist and postmodernist art that misappropriate the stage once valiantly held by craftsmanship and the search for truth, replacing all former excellence and genuine achievement with self-serving mumbo jumbo.

The speaker in sonnet 66 seems to have been especially prescient in this matter. Five centuries after this poet was writing sees the honor of the Nobel Prize in Literature degraded by being bestowed on Bob Dylan, a plagiarist, whose claim to fame is not even true literature but popular music. Thus is the influence of postmodernism; other examples of postmodernist gibberish posing as art include the folly of Robert Bly, the drivel of Charles Bernstein, and the gloom-filled posturing of Adrienne Rich.

The Couplet: Weary of Hypocrisy

Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

The speaker again repeats that he is weary of all the hypocrisy that results from disingenuousness and duplicity. He again shares the thought that he would prefer to die and be rid of this world of woe and lies—except for one very significant reason: he would not relish leaving behind his love.

This speaker’s most valued possession remains the divinely inspired gift of his brilliant talent. He employs this exalted talent to exalt his "love." In the final analysis, this creative and deep-thinking speaker has simply exaggerated his desire for death in order to serve to highlight his little drama displaying worldly contrasts.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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