Shakespeare has been noted as one of most quoted romantic writers. One of his most iterated lines is “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, Thou are more lovely and more temperate” (Sonnet 12, 1-2). Despite using copious Petrarchan images Shakespeare also coveys the punitive characteristics of love as seen in Sonnet 147. Shakespeare articulates his definition of love through fashioning love as a disease by using structure, metaphor, tone and imagery.
Shakespearean sonnets contain three quatrains and a couplet with a strict rhyme scheme. The quatrains alternate in rhyme (ABAB CDCD EFEF) and end with rhyming couplet. The entire fourteen lines are written in iambic pentameter – which consist of five iambic feet. Iambic feet contain an unstressed syllable followed stressed syllable. Furthermore each quatrain introduces or expands upon an idea. As demonstrated in Sonnet 147 that focuses around comparing his love to a disease each quatrain advances this point. The first quatrain depicts the disease itself and his vulnerability to it:
“My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.” (1043)
The second quatrain expands on said metaphor and adds a new idea. The speaker reckons the idea of reason to as foolish as a physician attempting to cure him of lovesickness – an impossible feat:
“My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did expect.” (1043)
The third quatrain describes the consequences for abandoning reason as the narrator is now driven mad. Furthermore the narrator acknowledges that he is now without hope for a cure.
“Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly express’d;” (1043)
The final couplet contains the volta. Here the speaker portrays his original vision of his lover- beautiful and faithful to his bleak reality. Nevertheless the speaker is still hopelessly in love, “For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright, Who art as black as hell, as dark as night” (1043). Many of Shakespeare’s other sonnets are traditional love poems with multiple Petrarchan influences. Sonnet 147 combines a formal structure with innovative thoughts.
The metaphors used throughout Sonnet 147 convey the inimical definition of love. Sonnet 147 opens with a simile, “My love is a fever, longing still” (1043). Immediately the reader is greeted with the extended metaphor, which will flow through the entire sonnet, that his love is a disease. The word “fever” implies the sultry mood, which will carry through the sonnet. Fevers refer to passionate acts, much like the speaker’s love. However, much like a fever, the love he feels may not be permanent. In the next line live is personified,...