Shakespeare Sonnet 92 - Owlcation - Education
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Shakespeare Sonnet 92

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

Text and Paraphrase of Sonnet 92

In sonnet 92, the speaker avows his unity with the soul force yet still holds back with an agnostic possibility that he might be mistaken, though he is certain he is not.

Sonnet 92

But do thy worst to steal thyself away
For term of life thou art assured mine;
And life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine.
Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
When in the least of them my life hath end.
I see a better state to me belongs
Than that which on thy humour doth depend:
Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,
Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.
O! what a happy title do I find,
Happy to have thy love, happy to die:
But what ’s so blessed-fair that fears no blot?
Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not.

The following is a rough paraphrase of Sonnet 92:

Though you hide from me constantly, I know you will be with me for this entire lifetime. Your love and my life are equal. My life depends on your love and your love informs my life. Knowing the immortality of my soul, nothing can make me afraid, even the most evil this world has to offer. I realize that my own soul is more important than the moods I sometimes have to suffer. You cannot cause me affront though my mind tends to dither. Thus, I can be joyful that I have your love, and I can be joyful even if I die for you are immortal and eternal. Still, the purest being will fears showing some fault, and I confess I sometimes have my doubts.

Reading of Sonnet 92

Commentary

First Quatrain: Addresses His Own Soul

But do thy worst to steal thyself away
For term of life thou art assured mine;
And life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine.

Addressing his soul, the speaker dramatizes his realization that is soul is an immortal being; thus, his own true self is immortal, despite his lack of complete awareness. The soul, he does realize, is made of love—Divine love. He understands that as long as his soul remains in his physical body, he will continue to live and perform his earthly duties. The speaker avers that he knows his life is connected to and therefore “depends up that love of thine.” The soul’s love is the life force that keeps his body animated and infuses his mind with the ability to cogitate and create.

Second Quatrain: Soul Awareness

Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
When in the least of them my life hath end.
I see a better state to me belongs
Than that which on thy humour doth depend:

The speaker then reports that the result of his soul awareness and the understanding that his soul is pure divine love allows him to be able to remain brave in the face of “the worst of wrongs.” The speaker “see[s] a better state to me belongs” after his earthly, physical awareness ends and his unique spiritual awakening begins. He realizes that the pure, inviolate state of the soul that remains perpetually balanced does not experience the vicissitudes of mood and “humour.” The harmonious evenmindedness is a welcoming one for the speaker.

Third Quatrain: Chiding His Own Soul

Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,
Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.
O! what a happy title do I find,
Happy to have thy love, happy to die:

The speaker then chides his soul that would never deign to “vex me with inconstant mind.” He knows that because his very life depends on the life force of his soul power, he is eternally bound to that soul force. Because of this cosmic unity, the speaker can rejoice that he is “Happy to have thy love, happy to die.” For even in death, he will be still united with that all-important soul love.

The Couplet: Only Human

But what ’s so blessed-fair that fears no blot?
Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not.

The speaker then admits that he is still as yet only a human being who may not be able to swear that he “fears no blot.” The speaker finally offers a rather bland nod to his own soul, suggesting that he suspects that he could possibly be wrong in his guesses. However, if it does turn out that he is mistaken, it is because he is unable to realize his error.

The real ''Shakespeare"

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

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."

The Secret Evidence of Who Wrote the Shakespeare Canon

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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