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Sonnet 138, By William Shakespeare Essay

1974 words - 8 pages

William Shakespeare, born in 1564 and died in 1616, wrote one hundred and fifty four sonnets in his lifetime. It is said that Shakespeare’s sonnets from 127 to 152 discuss the Dark Lady. Shakespeare appeared to have mixed feelings toward this Dark Lady who was not a portrayal of his actual wife. (Absolute Shakespeare, 2005) This paper will discuss Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138, “When my love swears that she is made of truth”. This Petrarchan sonnet has the rhyme scheme of ABAB, CDCD in the octave and EFEF, GG in the sestet. The fourteen lined sonnet made its first appearance in William Jaggard’s book titled “The Passionate Pilgrim”. This paper will argue against Edward A. Snow’s article on “Love of Comfort and Despair: A Reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138”. Snow believes Sonnet 138 transforms “cynicism and despair” into an “affirmative and idealistic” vision of romance (Snow, 462). However, this paper argues against Snow’s opinion of Sonnet 138 with a different judgement on the Shakespearean sonnet. The argument is that the sonnet expresses the refusal to acknowledge the truth and it portrays the idea of a flawed relationship, as opposed to the picture-perfect love.
The first two lines of the sonnet read “When my love swears that she is made of truth/I do believe her, though I know she lies” (Shakespeare, 1-2). In my opinion these two lines tell of the author’s knowledge of his mistress’s unfaithfulness. The author is aware of her deceitful ways; however he claims to ‘believe her’ and does not let her know that he is aware of her untruths. The language that Shakespeare uses expresses a content attitude with the situation of the relationship, that he has no desire to argue or tell his mistress of his knowledge. In contrast, Snow writes “the speaker ‘knows’ that his mistress lies not because he possesses empirical evidence of actual infidelities but because of what his own experience in love tells him” (Snow, 466-7). In contrast to my view of the first two lines of the sonnet, Snow believes that the speaker uses the words ‘I do’ to suggest marital vows. Snow employs this idea of marital vows as an ‘experience’ in love that the speaker possesses, and then uses this against his mistress to prove she is unfaithful. Rather than comprehending the beginning of the poem as a tale of untrue love because of a promiscuous mistress, Snow believes it to be a tale of deeper, darker meaning. He connects the untruths of the relationship to its marital vows, perhaps suggesting that marital vows and unfaithfulness comes together in one package. I think that Snow’s opinion of the opening of Sonnet 138 is in need of modification as his demeaning of marital vows could create an offensive outlook for Shakespeare’s sonnet.
The sonnet continues to tell of the speakers knowledge of his mistresses deceit while introducing a second lie in the relationship, “That she might think me some untutor’d youth/Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.” (Shakespeare, 3-4). The...

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