Saturday, May 18, 2013

Analysis of "Sonnet 109: O! never say that I was false of heart" by William Shakespeare

Original poem reprinted online here: "Sonnet 109: O! never say that I was false of heart" by William Shakespeare
Originally read: February 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Shakespeare

There's plenty of analysis on this poem -- well all of Shakespeare.  And usually Shakespeare sonnets deal with love, or cheating, or being in love while cheating.  Well this poem is about cheating on his rose (by any other name would smell just as sweet) and still be in love with her. Charming.

So this poem is an Elizabethan sonnet, but instead of separating the poem by the rhyme scheme (three quatrains, and then a couplet).  This poem is connected together like a narrative -- unlike the speaker and his "soul."

The opening line suggests that there's an argument and the speaker is playing defense, "O never say that I was false of heart."  There's an implication that he was called false of heart.  From hear the speaker then goes on to separate his physical self and where his "soul" is, "As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie. / That is my home of love;"

However, not only does the speaker instill the "fact" his soul is with her, he justifies his reasoning to hysically depart, "Like him [I think the him refers to Odysseus] that travels I return again [then this refers to Odysseus, cheating on Penelope with Calypso]." 

Then within three sentences, the speaker repentant, to angry, to dismissive:

Repentant: "So that myself bring water for my stain."  A sort of cleansing oneself of "sin."  Of course water washes away everything.

Angry:  "Never believe, though in my nature reigned"  Never Believe is some sort of command "(you should) never believe"  However, the tone here is a little bit different when there's a mixture of the command (as light as it can be) to the idea that the speaker is restraining himself the best he can.

Dismissive:  "All frailties that besiege all kinds of bloods."  Now, I think this is the reason why I chose this poem on Valentine's day.  What the speaker is implying is the fallacy that "all frailties"  (or weaknesses) besiege all kinds of blood (everyone in general).   If a guy or girl sees something they want physically, sexually, who wouldn't take it -- everyone has this weakness. 

So this is not about the argument itself, more of how the argument is constructed in this portion of the dramatic monologue.  Do I believe him?  If the order was reversed -- dismissive, angry, repentant, I believe I'd be reading a different poem --the blame goes from outside to in and the idea of repentance is valid and leads up to the couplet well: "For nothing this wide universe I call, / Save thou, my rose; in thou art my all" -- the reason for changing being close to the change.  This is the more cliche ending I think, but the most logical.

Now that the structure is more like this -- kind of like a loose cannon of pleading and anger.  I find this poem rather humorous in that aspect.  No, I don't believe him (of course he's not addressing me -- that'd be weird) but I find the change in direction and emotion more realistic for someone who doesn't want to repent and  still wants to keep his rose.  But, this perspective only works on the outside -- when "love" doesn't hinder "logic."  Perhaps.

In either case, well played Shakespeare, the ladies (and some gentlemen) still love you.

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