Poetry Series I: Shakespeare Sonnet 9

Hey guys! Welcome to day 1 of my poetry series! So for those of you that don’t know, I’m taking a class this semester on reading poetry. It’s been super cool because we get to analyze poems, which basically just means reading them and then doing a discussion style class where we sit around and talk about our feelings on them. Essentially, there’s not a ton of writing involved, but now that we’re halfway through the semester i’ve accumulated a decent base of short writings on poems that i’ve decided to share with you all. So, for the rest of the year, and then for however long it takes after that, I’ll be sharing one poem a week, along with whatever I wrote about it. some days, this might just be a short paragraph, and other days it’ll be a full essay. hopefully at least someone finds this interesting!

For today, I’ll be sharing some notes I wrote while reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 9

Sonnet 9

Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye,
That thou consum’st thy self in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep
By children’s eyes, her husband’s shape in mind:
Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty’s waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.
No love toward others in that bosom sits
That on himself such murd’rous shame commits.

Translation to Prose

Are you staying single because you are afraid of dying and leaving a sad widow? Well, if you do die and don’t leave children, the world will wail just as loudly. All widows will have children to look at and remember their husband’s by. Without this remembrance, beauty is wasted and the world will no longer be allowed to enjoy it. If you insist on staying single, you don’t love others, you are merely filled with a deep, murderous shame.

Analysis

In this poem, like many of the others, Shakespeare seems obsessed with the idea of people dying before they marry and have children. He uses continuous repetition of the words “widow” and “world”, aligning them closely together due to their alliteration. Using the same “w” starting sound, he uses diction with sad connotations, such as “wet”, “weep”, and “wail” in order to imply the fact that both the widow and the world could be sad that the person the narrator is speaking to has died. On the one hand, Shakespeare acknowledges the fact that someone could be staying single to prevent a widow from being sad. But then he refutes this, saying that the world will be more sad if the individual does not have children than a widow ever would be.

Shakespeare uses the terms “thee”, “thy”, and “thou” quite frequently, placing the reader in the sonnet and making it appear as if he was speaking directly to us. This makes the poem more powerful because it feels as though Shakespeare was not speaking to a specific person he finds beautiful, but to each and every person who may be considering the “single life”. In addition, the similar sound to the start of these words allows the poem to flow.

It is interesting that none of these repetitions are present in the line “By children’s eyes, her husband’s shape in mind”, because it makes it stand out more, and becomes central to the theme along with the final couplet. Shakespeare seems to revere children as the conduits for beauty to pass.

let's talk

What do you think of my poetry series? Should I continue? What are your thoughts on sonnet 9? Do you agree with my analysis?

2 thoughts on “Poetry Series I: Shakespeare Sonnet 9”

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