Shakespeare/Sonnet 149 term paper 12631

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In William Shakespeare's sonnet number one hundred and forty-nine there is a

very clear case of unrequited love. In a somber tone he outlines the ways in

which he selflessly served his beloved only to be cruelly rejected. His

confusion about the relationship is apparent as he reflects upon his behavior

and feelings towards her. This poem appears to be written to bring closure to

the relationship, but it could be argued that this poem is one final effort to

win her affection. The first twelve lines of the poem are a questions proposed

by the poet to his beloved. The theme of these questions all lead back to his

absolute commitment to her. The questions show a pattern of pathetic and blind

devotion that is both sad and disheartening to the poet. Canst thou, O cruel,

say I love thee not, When I against myself with thee partake? In these two lines

Shakespeare is asking is she can deny his love for her when she knows that

aganist his better judgment, he always he takes her side. In doing this he gives

her total control over him. On the other hand, he is calling her ÒO cruelÓ

which indicates that he may now see through her uncaring ways. Similarly he goes

on to ask her:Do I not think on thee when I forgot Am of myself, all tyrant, for

thy sake? This question can be paraphrased to mean: ÒAm I not thinking of you

when I forget myself for your sake, tyrant as you are?Ó(Rowse 309) Here again

he asks her if she can deny his devotion even though she has acted terribly. The

fact that the poet can now see that she is treating him poorly and cruelly

indicates progress from where he claims to have been in the past. The poetÕs

level of devotion increases with the next line of questioning which confronts

his willingness to shun those whom she finds displeasing. Who hateth thee that I

do call my friend; On whom frown'st that I do fawn upon? From these questions it

becomes evident that his actions are not just for the ladyÕs sake, but also for

his own satisfaction. He asks her: Who hates you that I call my friend? This is

interesting because there is no indication that she has any interest in his

friends at all. In spite of this he continues to judge people by their opinion

of her. In addition to this he claims to give no favor to those whom she

dislikes for that very reason. From this it can be inferred that she is

everything to him and that he has no will of his own. It is this very point

which leads him into his next questions. Nay, if thou lourÕst on me, do I not

spend Revenge upon myself with present moan? What merit do I in myself

respectThat is so proud thy service to despise, When all my best doth worship

thy defect,Commanded by the motion of thine eyes. These six lines sum up much of

what he has been attempting to convey. He is asking her: DonÕt I show pain and

grief when you frown at me? Is there any part of me that I wouldnÕt give up for

you? DonÕt I worship your imperfections?(Rowse 309)He is making an argument

that he has never done anything to deserve the way that she has treated him, yet

he loves her wholly and unconditionally. The poet finds himself in a depressing

and desperate situation, and these questions convey his position perfectly. The

last two lines of this poem are quite ambiguous. In one sense they suggest an

acknowledgment that the relationship is finished, but on the other hand there is

that possibility that they are a different kind of attempt to please and

ultimately win that sloe affection of his beloved. But, love, hate on, for now I

know thy mind; Those that can see thou lovÕst, I am blind. There is a great

deal of irony in this statement because he is telling her to continue in her

cruel ways because he now understands what she wants. He perceives her

aspiration to be a man who will love her for thge person she is, not wholly and

blindly as he had the poet has loved her.(Rowse 309) The irony in this is that

if he now can see her faults and what she desires, then he is no longer blind.

Thus this poem is arguably another attempt to win her affection.


BibliographyRowse, A.L.. Shakespeare's Sonnets The Problems Solved. New York: Harper

& Row, 1964.

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