Sonnet 149 Essay, Research Paper
In William Shakespeare’s sonnet number one hundred and forty-nine there is a
very clear case of unrequited love. In a somber tone he outlines the ways in
which he selflessly served his beloved only to be cruelly rejected. His
confusion about the relationship is apparent as he reflects upon his behavior
and feelings towards her. This poem appears to be written to bring closure to
the relationship, but it could be argued that this poem is one final effort to
win her affection.
The first twelve lines of the poem are a questions proposed by the poet
to his beloved. The theme of these questions all lead back to his absolute
commitment to her. The questions show a pattern of pathetic and blind devotion
that is both sad and disheartening to the poet.
Canst thou, O cruel, say I love thee not,
When I against myself with thee partake?
In these two lines Shakespeare is asking is she can deny his love for her when
she knows that aganist his better judgment, he always he takes her side. In
doing this he gives her total control over him. On the other hand, he is
calling her ?O cruel? which indicates that he may now see through her uncaring
ways. Similarly he goes on to ask her:Do I not think on thee when I forgot
Am of myself, all tyrant, for thy sake?
This question can be paraphrased to mean: ?Am I not thinking of you when I
forget myself for your sake, tyrant as you are??(Rowse 309) Here again he asks
her if she can deny his devotion even though she has acted terribly. The fact
that the poet can now see that she is treating him poorly and cruelly indicates
progress from where he claims to have been in the past.
The poet?s level of devotion increases with the next line of
questioning which confronts his willingness to shun those whom she finds
displeasing. Who hateth thee that I do call my friend;
On whom frown’st that I do fawn upon?
From these questions it becomes evident that his actions are not just for the
lady?s sake, but also for his own satisfaction. He asks her: Who hates you that
I call my friend? This is interesting because there is no indication that she
has any interest in his friends at all. In spite of this he continues to judge
people by their opinion of her. In addition to this he claims to give no favor
to those whom she dislikes for that very reason. From this it can be inferred
that she is everything to him and that he has no will of his own.
It is this very point which leads him into his next questions.
Nay, if thou lour?st on me, do I not spend Revenge upon myself with present moan?
What merit do I in myself respectThat is so proud thy service to despise,
When all my best doth worship thy defect,Commanded by the motion of thine eyes.
These six lines sum up much of what he has been attempting to convey. He is
asking her: Don?t I show pain and grief when you frown at me? Is there any part
of me that I wouldn?t give up for you? Don?t I worship your
imperfections?(Rowse 309)He is making an argument that he has never done
anything to deserve the way that she has treated him, yet he loves her wholly
and unconditionally. The poet finds himself in a depressing and desperate
situation, and these questions convey his position perfectly.
The last two lines of this poem are quite ambiguous. In one sense they
suggest an acknowledgment that the relationship is finished, but on the other
hand there is that possibility that they are a different kind of attempt to
please and ultimately win that sloe affection of his beloved.
But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind;
Those that can see thou lov?st, I am blind.
There is a great deal of irony in this statement because he is telling her to
continue in her cruel ways because he now understands what she wants. He
perceives her aspiration to be a man who will love her for thge person she is,
not wholly and blindly as he had the poet has loved her.(Rowse 309) The irony
in this is that if he now can see her faults and what she desires, then he is
no longer blind. Thus this poem is arguably another attempt to win her
Rowse, A.L.. Shakespeare’s Sonnets The Problems Solved. New York: Harper
& Row, 1964.