Love in Shakespeare's Sonnet 128 and Gibran's The Prophet
William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 128" suggests a rather playful and sensual approach to love, while an excerpt on love and marriage from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet has a didactic and intellectual tone. Shakespeare revels in lustful possession of his lover, but Gibran advises leaving space between partners in their relationship.
Well-endowed with imagery, Shakespeare's sonnet evokes the vision of a woman swaying back and forth playing a spinet, and the poet sitting back smiling and enjoying her movements, aroused by her music and charm. Master of double entendre, Shakespeare writes "Sonnet 128" as a sexual conceit. He compares her playing beautiful music on a "blessed" wooded instrument to her playing his blessed wooden instrument (phallic symbol). In fact, he sees the woman as his playtoy and object of possession for him to exploit for his own sexual enjoyment, misinterpreting his selfish lust as love.
The poem has an atmosphere of licentiousness, and Shakespeare employs many sexual puns and innuendoes to provide for this tone. His diction exhibits an earthy element: "playing music on blessed wood," "sweet fingers gently swaying," "wiry concord," "jacks nimbly leaping," "reaping a harvest," "wood's boldness," "change of state when tickled," "dancing chips," and "fingers walking with gentle gait." An interpretation of any of these preceding phrases could describe either his lover playing a spinet or performing a sexual act with consequent gratification. "Change of state when tickled" indicates the achievement of an erection. "Reaping a harvest" represents his sexual climax and ejaculation. "Wiry concord" makes reference to another poem in Shakespeare's sonnet sequence where the woman has "wiry hair"; the concord or coming together might be of both of their pubic areas as well as the harmony of the wires of the spinet resonating and combining beautiful and pleasing tones of music.
As the first poem to address the mistress directly (Pequigney, 156), "Sonnet 128" fits into a sequence of 154 poems which, in succession, tell the story of a love triangle. The protagonist, an established poet (conjectured by many as Shakespeare himself) (Boyce, 608), has a very close friendship with a young man and rival poet (perhaps even a homosexual love relationship) (Berry, 306), but their relationship sours when the young friend falls in love with the same woman for whom the older poet cares dearly. Known as the Dark Lady, the woman lacks physical beauty, but her intellectual grace and musical capacity excite the poet (Williamson, 185). She whets his appetite for lustful conquest. Past his prime, the poet deems his wood "dead" until he realizes that she makes his "dead wood more blessed than living lips." His words illuminate a disparity between dead and living, where presumed impotence gives rise to sexual vitality and pleasure. Also, Shakespeare not only uses...