Egotism and Love in Shakespeare's Sonnet 42
William Shakespeare's sonnets deal with two very distinct individuals: the blond young man and the mysterious dark-haired woman. The young man is the focus of the earlier numbered sonnets while the latter ones deal primarily with the dark-haired woman. The character of the young man and a seductive mistress are brought together under passionate circumstances in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 42." The sexual prowess of the mistress entangles both Shakespeare and the young man in her web of flesh. This triangular sonnet brings out Shakespeare's affection for both individuals. His narcissistic ideal of delusional love for the young man is shown through diction and imagery, metrical variation and voice, contained in three quatrains and one couplet.
The first quatrain introduces the surreal relationship between the young man and the poet in the choice of diction that is used. The first line of the sonnet "That thou hast her," uses strong alliterative qualities in the stressed first syllables of each word. In doing so, the imagery that is created is one of conceit and arrogance on the behalf of Shakespeare. Generally, a man who has been cuckold by the infidelities of his mistress is not so swift to forgive his betrayer. Instead, he narcissistically tells the friend that the affair is "not all [his] grief" (1). Likewise, Shakespeare alternately uses hypermetric and iambic lines in the first quatrain. Lines one and three are regular iambic pentameter but lines two and four are hypermetrical iambic pentameter. When referring to the young man and the pseudo-importance of their relationship, Shakespeare implements regular iambic pentameter, trying to convince the reader that it is in fact of great importance to him. Yet, when referring to the mistress in line two and his hurt ego in line four, the variation in meter is used, as if to say that both things are not of particular importance. Iambic pentameter is used to drive home the illusion of a strong union between the young man and himself. Medial caesurae are used on lines one and three, where the regular meter occurs, further creating the sense of a chimera in their friendship. When alluding to the young man, Shakespeare refers to him as "thou" (1) and "thee" (3) indicating a second person relationship. However, when alluding to the mistress, he uses "her" (1-2) and "she" (3) indicating a third person relationship. Through the establishment of a strong voice, when referring to the friend, one is lead to believe that there is a greater bond between himself and the friend than between himself and the mistress.
The second quatrain of the sonnet discusses Shakespeare's personal feelings on the betrayal of his fictional comradery. The quatrain begins with the oxymoron " Loving offenders" (5). Placing two opposite words next to one another indicates an unnatural relationship between himself and the friend. An...