Dissolution Versus Debauchery In Sonnet 96

1002 words - 4 pages

Dissolution Versus Debauchery in Sonnet 96

    The sonnets of William Shakespeare chronicle the conflicts of love and lust between the blond young man and the dark-haired lady. In Sonnet 96, Shakespeare acts as an apologist on behalf of the blond young man as he concludes his discourse on the young man's character." Here the poet presents a picture of the young man as a misguided youth caught up in youthful indiscretion, rather than a rapacious beast prowling for prey. Shakespeare illustrates the inherent differences between dissolution and debauchery as he declares that upon first glance all is not as it appears; therefore, the young man's character must be examined in greater detail. Endeavoring to engender empathy for the blond young man, the poet elucidates the young man's strengths while emending his weaknesses. However, it is the rising meter of iambic pentameter throughout the entire sonnet that sets a steady rhythm suggesting all is well there is no cause for alarm.


The initial quatrain of Sonnet 96 opens the debate on dissolution and debauchery, implying youthful indiscretion is the young man's only serious flaw. The first two lines of the sonnet begin in the same way, with parallel sentence structure and alliteration "Some say," which is deceptive, as the remainder of both lines one and two are contradictory. In line 1, the poet chides the young man, telling him some people see his bad behavior as a result of youth and immaturity, though there are others who believe his bad behavior is indicative of his inherent moral corruption." However, in line 2, the poet dismisses the concerns found in line 1 by characterizing the young man's youthful dalliances as a special privilege of one born to high social station." Lines 3 and 4 blend "faults and graces,"" further blurring the distinction between a moral weakness and a charming trait." By using the phrase "loved of more and less," (3) the poet suggests, with out exception, that people of all social ranks love the young man regardless of his failings. Furthermore, the young man's charm is such that it makes his failings seem even more charming." The poet emphasizes the importance of the first quatrain with the repetition of diction and punctuation, using three semi-colons and a period to announce tight end stops and by using the second person narrative. The (b) rhyme of "sport" (2) and "resort" (4) is used again in the couplet with the words "sort" and "report," bringing even more attention to the first quatrain.


The second quatrain juxtaposes inferiority with quality, suggesting that what you see is not always what you get. The poet demonstrates this idea through the metaphorical image of a "queen" (5) and a "jewel"...

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