Analysis Of Sonnet 139 Essay, Research Paper
Silence is golden. Although this is a trite comment about the value of soundlessness, it often rings true. However, silence can also be used as a weapon to inflict heavy amounts of emotional damage. Supposing a wife cheated on her husband and decided to keep silent about the whole event, but the husband found out about the affair through a good friend of his, what then? The husband, if he is more of the timid persuasion, will most likely keep silent about it, in hopes that his wife will approach him and confess. If this never happens though, a heavy burden is laid on the couple s hearts. The same case is found in Sonnet 139 by William Shakespeare. The poet, in a silent plea to the infamous Dark Lady, asks that the silence be lifted and the truth be uncovered.
The poem uses iambic pentameter and alternating rhyme to pattern itself, the only exception being the last two verses which combine to form a heroic couplet. The poet places the accents on the words that express pain, which gives the sonnet a feeling of struggle and heartbreak. The poem is centered on the heart of the poet, who is most likely Shakespeare himself, and the feelings surrounding his psyche. Essentially, the poem is written in such a way that one might believe that Shakespeare is actually addressing the Dark Lady. In actuality, the poem takes place inside of the poet s head. Through his words, the reader realizes that the poet has been reduced to a vexatious, and emotionally distressed being due to the actions of the Dark Lady. Shakespeare makes it evident throughout the poem that it is not the act that bothers him so much, but rather, the way in which she tries to conceal the truth from him. He figures that since she is already killing him slowly, she might as well just confess and finish him off.
The poem opens with the line, O! call not me to justify the wrong/ That thy unkindness lays upon my heart. Shakespeare is merely telling the Dark Lady that if anything is to be said about the affair, it will not be coming from his lips. The unkindness which lies upon his heart cannot be let go of because the air has not been cleared. He feels that she is putting him through excruciating pain having not said a word at all. He pleads with her to wound [him] not with [her] eye , but instead, with her own words. In reading the next two lines, it is apparent that the Dark Lady has a certain power over the poet, and the reader is well aware that Shakespeare is not the rock of the relationship. Use power with power, and slay me not with art. The power that the Dark Lady has over the poet is incredible, and he wants the power to be used to break the silence. He is sick of the secrecy that surrounds the relationship, and his only hope is that she will shatter his heart as soon as possible. Shakespeare knows that the Dark Lady lov st elsewhere , but he needs the confirmation. The toll his heart has been taking is overburdening his emotions.
In this part of the poem, Shakespeare addresses the Dark Lady as Dear heart, although it is understood that this poem is taking place inside of his head. He wonders why she bothers to glance [her] eye aside when she could save herself the all this trouble. The next couplet is a rhetorical question that seems to puzzle the poet. Why does the Dark Lady continue to plague his heart, when a few words could end it all? What need st [her] wound with cunning, when all her power is more then his defence can bide. Shakespeare knows that he will not be able to do anything when she reveals her feelings. The pain he will feel will most likely crush him.
The poem experiences a Volta in the next couplet, as the tone shifts from the poet s personal problem with the Dark Lady to the Dark Lady s encounters with others. Let me excuse thee: ah! My love well knows. It appears that Shakespeare is apologizing for being encumbered with obsession for the Dark Lady, but as he well knows, her looks are striking. However, sometimes her looks can be advantageous. Therefore from my face she turns my foes. Although her looks have enraptured his mind, they have oftentimes done the same to his opponents. He believes that this should have taken much pressure off him and placed it on the Dark Lady, allowing his enemies to dart their injuries, elsewhere. Sadly though, he explains that they do not so.
The last couplet is the heroic couplet. Shakespeare does this to add definition to the last two words of both. Slain and pain both summarize the agonizing feeling that the poet feels at the present moment. The couplet in itself is a sum-up of what Shakespeare had been trying to express the whole time. However this time, he puts his words into hard concrete statements that can be interpreted in only one way. He had been hinting at it for some time, but now he plainly asserts that I am near slain/ Kill me outright with looks, and rid my pain. He has reached his verdict: Either let the Dark Lady do away with him slowly and softly with secrecy and lies, or be blunt and kill him where he stands. He prefers the latter.
With all of the emotional brutality that Shakespeare has gone through, it is obvious that the poet can take no more. In using accents on the right words, the poet gives the poem passion, allowing the reader to see the poet s deepest anguish. Shakespeare lays his heart on the table, in hopes that maybe, the Dark Lady will come to and decide to break the barrier of silence and confess her love for someone else. However, until that happens, Shakespeare is doomed to writhe in his own self-agony, a victim of the silent killer.