Sonnet 14

Urgh. So, I need to procrastinate. I have a 40% assignment to study for but I have absolutely no drive to do any work on it and I’m a bit too stressed to post out a really well thought out review. So I thought I’d just discuss one of my favorite Shakespearean sonnets and why I’m an idiot for liking it so much.

Number 14:

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

I honestly do not think that there could have been a worse sonnet for me to choose as a favorite. Why? Well, this is basically a very pretty way of saying, woman, give me some babies! Maybe, oh reader, you possess powers in understanding this language which is far superior to me, but when I was a child, about 14 and reading this for the first time, it seemed horribly beautiful and quite romantic.

I thought I’d start off by first explaining a few, choice lines. It’s always important to read a poem a few times before actually analyzing it, and even through doing so, there is a very simple feeling of vulnerability and ignorance to the poem. For example, “Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,” is a way of saying that the author has no control over time and events. This wraps back to the ignorance of the author who can’t think forward of understand what the future might hold. These feelings are elaborated on in the line, “Or say with princes if it shall go well,” which is to admit that even the power of royalty is still insufficient to give security and knowledge about the future. I think these lines really reflect on the lack of control Shakespeare must have been feeling, as the life of a writer in those days would have been turbulent and a constant search for wealth and notice within the art community.

There is also a constant reference to the stars and the power that astronomy and astrology had. In those days, stars didn’t just represent a larger world but they also showed a deeper meaning to the movements of the earth and each individual life. Shakespeare had a fascination with them, which can be seen by Julius Caesar, “No comets are seen when beggars die…” and Romeo And Juliet, “A pair of star cross’d lovers take their life…”. When considering the impact that the stars had on Shakespeare, there is also a special event which adds credence to his interest, which was a supernova in 1572, which would have been visible to the naked eye and surely to Shakespeare. However, like most of his life, there is an element of mystery to many of his words and stories.

Now, this is where the analysis reveals why I’m an idiot for truly loving this sonnet. I refer you to one of the last lines, “If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert….”. I actually decided to look this line up, you know, see what it’s deal was. It seemed quite pretty so… you can imagine my surprise when I found out that it meant, quite plainly, that, “If you would only turn your focus from yourself to creating a child,” which is a nice way of saying, GET PREGNANT. For a girl who was raised in an all girl’s private school which was pro-feminism to the point of obsession, this was pretty strange. Even offensive. I know women didn’t have a lot of choice back then but seriously, for someone to tell you quite simply, that if you don’t have a child, you’ll be an epic failure as a women, is a bit strong. I think this picture sums up how I feel about this sonnet and why actually writing it was a pretty strong move:

And that’s why I’m an idiot. I know, it’s a weird post I’ve done. I’ve done a half analysis and wrapped it all up with a bit of bra burning. But I’m in a strange mood and I SHOULD be getting back to my studies, even though they are boring and I can’t really focus. Hope you enjoyed reading though…. and perhaps, if you aren’t quite sure of a sonnet’s language, you should look it up. For all you know, it could be about convincing a woman to get pregnant. πŸ™‚

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3 thoughts on “Sonnet 14

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