Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Brett's Analysis of Sonnet 106

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Sonnet 106 is about a beautiful person who is too lovely for even poetry to describe. At first, Shakespeare thinks his subject is beautiful like the old “ladies dead and lovely knights” (line 4), but then realizes that his subject’s beauty is even greater than that described by previous authors. He then theorizes that the “antique pen” (line 7) wrote prophecies praising this person’s beauty. The prophecies prefigured the subject’s appearance, yet even they “had not skill enough” to describe the beauty. Now (rather, in Shakespeare’s time) they still “lack tongues to praise” (line 14) the beauty.

·         A subtle volta appears around line 8 in this sonnet.
o   The turn happens as Shakespeare goes from talking about past beauty to realizing that that past beauty was actually prophecy of the upcoming beauty of the subject of the poem.
·         Sonnet 106 can be likened to Sonnet 18, which also speaks of an immortal and eternal beauty.
o   In Sonnet 18, Shakespeare writes about not forgetting that eternal beauty, rather than envisioning a beauty that is unforgettable.
o   The volta in Sonnet 18 happens around the same place, a little bit later.
o   There is no blazon in Sonnet 18. Although it is also about beauty, it expresses that beauty metaphorically rather than physically.

Something interesting I noticed about all the analyses I found on this poem was that they all identified the subject as a male. My initial reading of this sonnet and carefully thought led me to believe the subject was female, and there is no where I can find to substantiate the claim that the beautiful appearance belongs to a male. If anyone has found an analysis involving a female subject, I would love a link! 


  1. I would have never thought to read this subject as a male, since Shakespeare usually fawns over women, but you're right! Wow, that's interesting!

  2. I think it's definitely dedicated to a man because the speaker praises the object's "brow" (generally masculine), dwells on "lovely knights," and then says the object is a "master," which seems like a very manly verb. More importantly, the poem lacks the usual allusions to feminine beauty in the form of white breasts, raven eyes, or flowery-pink cheeks.