Poetry Series VI: Shakespeare Sonnet 57

so now that we’re on week six i have literally no idea what to write in my intro to these posts. we’re mostly just doing the same thing on repeat, and i’m scheduling this way ahead, so hopefully these aren’t getting like only 2 views or making people unsubscribe from my blog… in general i started posting these because people seem to like analyses, so hopefully those stats hold.

We’re back to shakespeare sonnets for this week. this time, we’re doing sonnet 57, which is very sarcastic and entertaining, so hopefully you enjoy it!

Sonnet 57

Being your slave what should I do but tend
Upon the hours, and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend;
Nor services to do, till you require. 
Nor dare I chide the world without end hour,
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where you are, how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love, that in your will,
Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

Analysis

The sonnet is written with a very sarcastic and biting tone, as though Shakespeare is trying to make it clear that he doesn’t actually plan on sitting around and waiting for the person he is speaking to to return. His frequent use of the words referencing slavery (ie “slave”, “sovereign”, and “services”) make it clear that the time he is dedicating to the reader is not repaid equally.  In fact, Shakespeare is being taken advantage of, and he is finally noticing that he merely sits around and waits for the reader to give him his time, and that’s not worth it.

The word “affairs” has a double meaning of sexual references today, but at the time it was written did not, which is interesting given the fact that in this poem the double meaning would make sense. However, based on the context of where it was placed in the sonnet sequence, it is very possible that Shakespeare is talking to a man, jealous that the man is now off spending time with women instead of talking to Shakespeare. In the final couplet, Shakespeare makes a play on the word “will” capitalizing it in order to draw attention to the fact that it’s also his first name. Therefore, line 13 states that he is “your Will”. This furthers the slavery metaphor and proves that the reader owns Shakespeare completely.

In contrast to the other poems, this one seems to have a flipped tone. Earlier, it would be genuine throughout and sarcastic or dark at the end, but this seems to be extremely biting during lines 1-12 and then settles into a genuine statement on the “fool of love”, and how it will allow him to do anything for the person he is speaking to.

Another frequent theme is the references to time in this poem. It is important to Shakespeare in all of the sonnets that time is moving forward, and this one is no exception. He states that he will “watch the clock for you”. Although in this case it appears literal, it can also be a reference to the time that is slipping away as they grow older, bringing us back to the beginning of the sequence and Shakespeare’s obsession with growing old.

let's talk

What’s your favorite part of sonnet 57? Do you enjoy reading these posts? What do you think the most common theme of this poem is?

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