Shakespeare’s Poetry Analysis

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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William Shakespeare was a well-known English poet, in 1609, Shakespeare had published a huge collection of his one hundred fifty-four sonnets. Like his plays that he wrote, the sonnets were surrounded by many characteristics of what was to be known as the human experience. Shakespeare explored many aspects and perspectives; his gift of poetry that he wrote were diverse but also rich in literary devices. Specifically, in his poems “Sonnet 146” and “Sonnet 133” give an extensive amount of tone, allusion, and imagery that can grasp the reader’s attention at any given moment.

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In Sonnet 146, Shakespeare describes what is his ‘poor soul’ and describes it as the center of his sinful earth (his sinful body). 

The poet thinks his soul is not being what it is made for. In this poem Shakespeare wants to know why and he is experiencing so much pain. He also begins to remind himself that life is short and one day his body will die. All Shakespeare wants is his souls to turn around and take back its rightful place. As for sonnet 133, it is about Shakespeare confronting a mysterious woman (mistress) and the feelings towards her. To begin, Shakespeare applies metaphor to give the reader a big picture to put in the mind of what is being discussed. The lines 1-2 of Sonnet 146 gives the reader that big picture, the poet says, “poor soul the center of my sinful earth, (……) these rebel pow’rs that thee array”. This line can be confusing almost as if it’s missing some more information by taking a closer look, the soul is supposed to be the center of all things, it should be commanding the rest of the body around. Since the use of “array” can possibly mean to organize and get the troops ready for what is going to be battle, Shakespeare makes it almost sound like the body is saying no to its commanding officer and decides to make the orders for the soul, as this is not supposed to be how things work. 

The best way of explanation is that; Shakespeare can possibly be using a military metaphor to describe the harsh struggles between the body’s desire and the center (soul). Moving on, in lines 1-2 of Sonnet 133, Shakespeare says, “beshrew that heart that makes my heart groan, for that deep wound it gives my friend and me”. Reading these lines can give the reader an idea that the poem might be about romantic love. Starting with the idea that hearts can’t technically “wound” other hearts. A very common metaphor that is used to represent the emotional pain and how people from all over can experience the feeling of suffering from being in a romantic relationship. Or maybe Shakespeare is talking about another form of a wound? After all, this is a poem about love. Next, Shakespeare uses the tool of allusion to help the reader make connections to the character or help determine the significance of the event that is happening. In line 14 of Sonnet 146. 

The poet says, “and death once dead, there’s no more dying then.” In other words, “once death has been defeated, then you won’t die.” This is seen as a major contradiction since “death” cannot be “dead.” If the reader caught this in time they can see that Shakespeare just dropped a major allusion bomb about judgment day. According to [Active Christianity] This day is described as the “very last thing that happens before God destroys the old heaven and the old earth” (Par.2). When every deceased person can rise again and reunite with the soul and what is a good person will be able to spend eternity in paradise (heaven). So, therefore Shakespeare insists that there won’t be no more “dying”. Moving on to line 8 of Sonnet 133 Shakespeare writes “a torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed.” It seems that these choices of words have a sense of biblical meanings hidden within them. 

The poet really likes to use puns to get his point across, when the word “crossed” is used, he wants the reader to know that he believes the “torment” of being “forsaken” by loved ones is even more unpleasant than what is to be considered as the crucifixion of Jesus. What the reader might find normal or weird is that Shakespeare is being very relaxed about using this type of allusion, almost as if he is giving his love life more of a highlight over to what is considered a serious event in the biblical sense. In addition, Shakespeare uses the device of imagery to make the context more intense as he begins to shower the reader with words rather than just explaining the emotions he is feeling. Taking a final look at the lines 7-8 of Sonnet 146. The poet writes, “shall worms, inheritors of this excess, eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?” Of course, sooner or later our bodies will be 6ft under and be eaten by worms and who knows what. Even though one can obviously see the use metaphors, but the reader can see the imagery that the poet is trying to purpose. 

Shakespeare tries to make the reader visualize that worms are going to “inherit” all the belongings when death comes upon an individual. These lines can emphasize the poet’s point of view that Shakespeare’s soul has been starving for a long period of time and it is been more focused on worrying about the fact that one day the body will be devoured by worms. Moving forward, to take one last glance at the imagery that Shakespeare likes to feed the reader with is line 5 of Sonnet 133. This fascinating poet writes, “me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken”. By now the reader should be prepared for the crafty wordplay that the poet loves to use, by breaking down these words the poet is trying to make the reader see that he is not his true self anymore because whomever this mystery woman has “taken” control over him. Taking the phrase “me from myself” can remind the reader that even though this Sonnet is about a relationship, it’s about the raw emotions that the poet is feeling and perceiving. 

The last word that can be broken down is “cruel eye”. Technically, as everyone should know that eyes can’t be “cruel”, that’s not what Shakespeare wants the reader to think; he wants the reader to visualize how harsh this mystery woman can be. As effective that it is, Shakespeare wanted to load and cock back the use of imagery to show the women as to what seems like she is shooting him with horrible, dirty looks, without any remorse in one’s eyes. In conclusion, William Shakespeare had certainly made a huge impact on the world that people live in today. Even to this day, Shakespeare is still able to take hold of people all around the world by influencing them, no matter what age difference is. His long-lasting career will always be well known all around the world, William Shakespeare was able to help shape and create the literature that is used today.

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Shakespeare’s poetry analysis. (2021, Nov 30). Retrieved from