365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

296. Sonnet 27

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Though most of his sonnets are romantic in nature, William Shakespearewould occasionally venture into other realms of expression. Sonnet 27, for example, though focused on the effect a person has on the speaker of the poem, is more about being haunted by attraction than about real romance and love. It explores what it is like to be in love to the point of obsession, and how obsession can make it impossible to find a moment’s peace.

The sonnet is as follows:

“Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.”

The speaker tells of how, no matter how exhausted he finds himself at the end of the day after hard work, he still finds his thoughts drifting to his beloved. He tries to sleep, tries to find peace in sleep, but cannot find the rest he needs to escape his love.

Just about anyone can identify with this feeling, whether it was on a smaller scale with a childhood crush, or on an equal keel with a love so passionate it kept one awake at night and distracted all day. It is a feeling that most people have dealt with – love, whether unrequited (which would understandably be a form of torture) or returned but at a distance, is something that is hard to “shake off’ in order to get a good night’s sleep.

Shakespeare proves, once again, that he has an astute understanding of human nature and the emotions that accompany ordinary situations. Sonnet 27 is one of Shakespeare’s most insightful poems. It keeps him from being just an elevated playwright and returns him to being a pure human – one with extraordinary intelligence and who can connect with almost anyone else through his skill and talent.


Written by Caroline Mincks

July 24, 2010 at 12:26 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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