Today we’re celebrating #Shakespeare400! I’m an Early Modern Literature student and I absolutely love Shakespeare.
Since today marks 400 years since Shakespeare died I thought I’d share three of my favourite sonnets by the Bard.
This is the first of a series of posts that will go up today, the other two will be about my favourite Shakespearean plays and my favourite Shakespeare quotes (especially Shakespeare’s insults). It’s just so great to be able to share my love of Shakespeare on my blog.
Right, enough about that. Let’s move on to my favourite sonnets. Once more unto the breach…
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
I just love Shakespeare’s thoughts about love and lust in this sonnet. It’s a very passionate sonnet that explores the madness of love, ‘mad in pursuit and possession so’, and the savage nature of lust. It’s a wonderful poem that is in complete juxtaposition to the sonnets that most people know (Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 130).
My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly express’d;
For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
This sonnet reminds me of Theseus’ speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he claims that love is the discourse of mad men with ‘seething brains’. Love is a disease, a fever, which leaves its victims ‘past cure’ and ‘past care’. Once again, this sonnet is a very passionate description of obsessive and destructive love.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
I couldn’t leave this poem out of my top 3 sonnets. It’s an iconic poem, although often misinterpreted, and everyone knows at least the first line. It’s one of the four sonnets that I can recite (the others are 55, 129, and 130) and it’s just such a beautiful poem.
Do you have a favourite poem? Let me know in the comments!