In brief, Neoplatonism incorporates the idea of procreation into its creation myth.

Plotinus and his followers asked why the One should not be content to rest in its own unity, but needs to create the natural world through its emanation into multiplicity and number. The answer is given that the One possessing the ideal qualities of an ideal goodness must out of pure magnanimity seek to multiply its own goodness by dividing its perfect unity into a multiplicity of emanations which becomes everything in the natural world, including us. The drive of the One to (pro)create is the hypostasis of Love sometimes referred to as the higher of the two Venuses. That higher love then diffuses itself throughout the multiple forms of the natural world and instills in them (including us) the desire to return to the perfect unity of the One, out of which we have emanated. As we begin to struggle towards this goal, however, our natural imperfections, resulting from our birth out of the lower stuff of being, perverts our purer love to the lower Venus giving rise to all our earthly and fleshly desires²a Classic/Medieval version of libido. It was always the express aim of Neoplatonism to use esoteric philosophy to learn to seek the higher Venus and reunion with the One, and elements of this process were adapted to Christianity by the early Fathers (the higher Venus only surviving deeply submerged in the Virgin mother). In some interpretations the third hypostasis of Mind is added, and sometimes the trinity is identified as One, Mind,

Soul. Though he cannot stop his own eventual death. the speaker warns. and thus "dost beguile the world. It is also one of the "procreation sonnets." which focus on the fair lord's responsibility to have a child so that his beauty might be passed on for future generations to appreciate. ergo the Son of the Trinity. This is because the fair lord seems to show no interest in bearing children. As such it provides the model for the highest pretensions of poetry as being next only to prophecy in its divine inspiration. the last taking the place of Love. the speaker asks the fair lord. which are either addressed directly to or written about the effect of a young and strikingly beautiful man. Allusion to the story of Narcissus is apparent in Sonnet 3. using his knowledge of the young man's vanity to try to convince him. "Die single and thine image dies with thee." The speaker pleads with the fair lord. This is the project accomplished by the first nineteen of Shakespeare¶s sonnets. surely he cares about preserving the image he so loves staring at in the mirror? Therefore as the last line. the love object is more appropriately a young male as described by Diotima to Socrates as of a higher more perfect beauty in the ladder of love. It is appropriate then for the Platonic poet to cast his sonnet in the role of logos in its injunction to the One most worthy to be praised to respond to the imperative of Love. in the fair lord's tendency to "look in thy glass. In lines 5-6. too. ergo the Word made flesh." Though he admires the fair lord's beauty. but similarly associated with the Holy Ghost in the Christian trinity (the idea of which incidentally arose contemporarily). a Platonic ontology is superimposed on the form of a personal address to a love object in the tradition of Drayton¶s Idea¶s Mirrour. Sonnet 3 is one of the "fair lord sonnets. the Word. the speaker views the young man as selfish. The hypostasis of Mind is adapted to Christianity as logos. "For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb / Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?" . to give over its niggarding and share its beauty through procreation." one of the first 126 of Shakespeare's sonnets. Read in this sense." The extended metaphor of farming runs throughout Sonnet 3. In this way.

who will resemble him in his "golden time. wherefore art thou Romeo?" in the long list of Shakespeare's quotable quotations. its opening line competitive with "Romeo.the poet is eternalizing the fair lord's beauty in his verse. since the fair lord's timeless beauty far surpasses that of the fleeting. Also note that May (line 3) was an early summer month in Shakespeare's time. "So thou through windows of thine age shalt see. These imperfections contrast sharply with the poet's description of the fair lord.The word "unear'd" means "unploughed." It is extremely foolish to become "the tomb" of that which you love so much about yourself. i. while at other times its "gold complexion" is dimmed by passing clouds. "Tillage" means the cultivation of land. the speaker is trying to convince the fair lord that time will pass and his beauty will fade. He begins in lines 3-4. the speaker tells the fair lord. who is "more temperate" (not extreme) and whose "eternal summer shall not fade" (i. where the poet speaks of the inevitable mortality of beauty: "And every fair from fair sometime declines. but this is the first sonnet after the so-called "procreation sonnets" (sonnets 1-17). "Or who is he so fond will be the tomb / Of his self-love. The idea of a window is used as both a connection to the past and a barrier between the past and present. and in the fair lord sonnets. and 13-14. This unavoidable truth is hinted at in lines 7-8 when the speaker asks. 10-11. and "husbandry" functions both as a reference to farm management as well as a pun on the state of being a husband. for it "shall not fade" . but shows that there can be no such comparison. In lines 11-12.." But he himself will still be an old man with wrinkles. he will not always feel such pride when he looks in the glass. The gender of the addressee is not explicit. through which the fair lord will be able to look upon his children. it apparently marks the place where the poet has abandoned his earlier push to persuade the fair lord to have a child. in these "eternal lines." Note the financial imagery ("summer's lease") and the use of anaphora (the repetition of opening words) in lines 6-7. will not become a disappointment) thanks to what the poet proposes in line 12. which is beauty. Here again we find an extreme and a disappointment: the sun is sometimes far too hot. to stop posterity?" Here. . / Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time. Here the theme of the ravages of time again predominates. Romeo. The poet describes summer as a season of extremes and disappointments.e. The theme of the ravages of time is prevalent throughout Shakespeare's sonnets. it is connected to lamenting the fact that the fair lord's beauty will fade and he will eventually die. In this sonnet. He continues in lines 5-6. "fond" means "foolish. separated from his youth by unstoppable time." The windows represent the eyes." But the fair lord's is of another sort. where "rough winds" are an unwelcome extreme and the shortness of summer is its disappointment. where he lingers on the imperfections of the summer sun." and here is used metaphorically as a reference to sexual intercourse. inconstant season. we see it especially in line 7. because England did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752. The first two quatrains focus on the fair lord's beauty: the poet attempts to compare it to a summer's day. Sonnet 18 is arguably the most famous of the sonnets.. Ploughing the womb and sowing it with a seed results in procreation.e.

But has the poet really abandoned the idea of encouraging the fair lord to have a child? Some scholars suggest that the "eternal lines" in line 12 have a double meaning: the fair lord's beauty can live on not only in the written lines of the poet's verse but also in the family lines of the fair lord's progeny. for example. It is almost as though the narrator is saying all this with the ulterior motive of justifying his own attraction to the fair lord." and the poet will have gotten his wish. Thereby the fair lord's "eternal summer shall not fade. Scholars are divided over what this attraction really equates to. his verse thereby "growing. . Note that the "master-mistress" appellation can be interpreted both in a literal sense (the fair lord is the poet's master. following common Shakespearean wordplay. as we read in quatrain two. or perhaps beauty. his appearance attracts both men and women alike. yet this image is not as readily applicable to the lines of the poet's verse . which he believes will withstand the ravages of time. and nothing more. Sonnet 20 is considered one of the most interesting of the sonnets for its various insights into some of the sonnets' perpetual mysteries. The poet plans to capture the fair lord's beauty in his verse ("eternal lines").In line 12 we find the poet's solution . The first quatrain of sonnet 20 describes the fair lord as feminine: having "a woman's face.the poet concedes that the fair lord's love can belong to him even as the use of his love (that is. or perhaps the beauty of youth." The use of "growest" also implies an increasing or changing: we can envision the fair lord's family lines growing over time. carnal lust . line 14 seems to counter this interpretation. Note the poet's pun on the word "prick" in line 13: as a verb it can mean "to choose. in it and in my rhyme." "a woman's gentle heart." On the other hand." That "thing" is presumably the fair lord's penis. with whom he is unfaithful) and in a figurative sense. Such an interpretation would echo the sentiment of the preceding sonnet's closing couplet: "But were some child of yours alive that time / You should live twice. the singular "this" (as opposed to "these") having as its most likely antecedent the poet's verse. but the prevailing view is that although the attraction is certainly present.unless it refers only to his intention to continue writing about the fair lord's beauty.that is. including the true identity of the fair lord and the exact nature of the love that the poet expresses for him.tying in with the theme of platonic love vs. In lines he intends to eternalize the fair lord's beauty despite his refusal to have a child. as well as his mistress." while as a noun it can be a vulgar term for "penis." Finally. The beauty of the fair lord is that of a woman. the sexual act) remains for the ladies. In the sonnet's closing couplet . androgenously (the fair lord is both male and female. yet he is still a man.perhaps a deliberate attempt to further feminize the fair lord." etc. but at the same time he explicitly denies any interest in the fair lord's genitalia: "And by addition me of thee defeated / By adding one thing to my purpose nothing. Here we see the poet's use of "summer" as a metaphor for youth. note that sonnet 20 is the only of Shakespeare's sonnets to use exclusively feminine rhyme . or perhaps neither male nor female). Sonnet 20 has generated one of the largest bodies of criticism among the sonnets. end rhymes of at least two syllables with the final syllable unstressed .the perfect battleground for scholarly interpretation. having control over him. this does not necessarily imply that it is sexual. The sonnet is fraught with wordplay and ambiguity . the poet explicitly bemoans the fact that the fair lord was created as a man.

." In comparison with most other sonnets. Support for this hypothesis comes from the fact that the letters HEWS (with U at times in place of W) appear in every line in the sonnet but one. however. "Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments . possibly resorting to these names since the first letter of William or Wriothesley was already being used. The opening lines of the sonnet dive the reader into the theme at a rapid pace. accomplished in part by the use of enjambment . or that the poet numbered the sonnet in accordance with the fair lord's age (Herbert would have turned 20 in 1600. quatrain three nails home the theme. perhaps). Note that this is one of the few sonnets in the fair lord sequence that is not addressed directly to the fair lord. e. Some take this as evidence for a Mr. The metaphors are reasonably transparent. Wriothesley in 1593). even when it encounters changes in the loved one.. Obviously such interpretation is highly speculative and must remain inconclusive without corroborating historical evidence. but there is no twist at the third quatrain . sonnet 116 strikes readers as relatively simple. in line 7 it is a steadfast star (the North Star.For a good example of the kind of creativity used by interpreters of the sonnets. Hughes as the true identity of the fair lord. But readers can enjoy wondering whether any of these ideas is true. The overarching sentiment of true love's timeless and immutable nature is presented and developed in the first eight lines. Quatrain two embarks on a series of seafaring metaphors to further establish the permanence of true love: in line 5 it is an "ever-fixed mark. Finally. with love's undying essence prevailing against the "bending sickle" of Time.. The sonnet has a relatively simple structure. Sonnet 116 is one of the most famous of the sonnets for its stalwart defense of true love. also note the "hue" and "hues" in line 7 (this second instance italicized in the Quarto).g. whose height we are able to measure (as with a quadrant) although we may know nothing of its nature (the science of stars had hardly progressed by Shakespeare's time). let us consider the position held by some scholars that the poet intentionally encrypted the actual name of the fair lord into the lines of sonnet 20. then he "never writ.rather a continuation of the theme. and the assonating "use" in line 14. and only some great and final destruction of apocalyptic proportions could spell its doom. and the theme is quickly and plainly apparent. the context of the sonnet." a sea mark that navigators could use to guide their course. nor no man ever loved. gives it away as an exposition of the poet's deep and enduring love for him. Both of these metaphors emphasize the constancy and dependability of true love. Sonnet 116 closes with a rather hefty wager against the validity of the poet's words: he writes that if what he claims above is proven untrue. One might even go so far as to claim that Shakespeare's use of the word "wrought" in line 10 was a deliberate alliterative reference to Wriothesley. Others see the letters as the poet's initials (WS) plus the first two letters of either Henry or Herbert (HE). Note here the reference back to the nautical imagery of quatrain two with the use of the word "compass" in line 10. Time's "hours and weeks" are "brief" compared to love's longevity. with each quatrain attempting to describe what love is (or is not) and the final couplet reaffirming the poet's words by placing his own merit on the line." This first quatrain asserts that true love is immortal and unchanging: it neither changes on its own nor allows itself to be changed.the continuation of a syntactic unit from one line of poetry to the next without any form of pause..

Unique in the sequence. as line 10 warns that Nature "may detain. unlike a picture that shows the past." The simplicity is noteworthy. "Time's fickle glass" in line 2 may be an hourglass. Sonnet 126 is the narrator's final farewell to the fair lord and also his final admonition. for it is Nature that has granted him his resilience against time by continually rescuing him from time's destruction. though delay'd. and thereby a mirror shows the changes that have taken place with time.Even the couplet is but a simple statement like "there you have it. reminiscent of the prophetic . since each four-line block constitutes its own thematic unit within the overall theme of the fair lord's preternatural resilience to the ravages of time.for a mirror shows the present. In the first quatrain. answer'd must be / And her quietus is to render thee. The attitude of the sonnet is not jealousy. Nevertheless it is still possible to analyze this "sonnet" quatrain by quatrain. for its aberrant "non-sonnet" structure seems to be evidence of the poet's insertion of these lines as an explicit "curtains close. the narrator admires his "lovely boy" for the superhuman power he seems to possess over Time's various instruments of destruction. How deliberate is the ordering of the sequence." or at least as some sort of meaningful interlude." The second quatrain identifies Nature as the fair lord's generous accomplice. sonnet 126 is actually not a sonnet at all." (The words "quietus est" were written atop acknowledgments of settled debts. but it is unable to withstand the ravages of time indefinitely. Sonnet 126 is often viewed as the definitive breaking point. these changes have yet to detract from his beauty. One of the most heated debates surrounding the collection of Shakespeare's sonnets is the question of what deeper significance. For the fair lord. the primary division most scholars make comes between the fair lord sonnets (1-126) and the dark lady sonnets (127-154). Even this fact has produced speculation about additional encoded meanings. as we might expect. This comes as little surprise. but it could also be a mirror . however. sincerity of conviction.) The power of Nature may be great. but not still keep. where Nature's "audit" of life and death must be reconciled by the eventual termination of the fair lord's earthly figure: "Her audit. if any. It should come as no wonder that the lines of sonnet 116 often are quoted as Shakespeare's authentic definition of love. but rather a verse of six rhyming couplets adding up to twelve lines. as we see in the opening of quatrain three: "O thou minion of her pleasure!" The final quatrain delimits the fair lord's specious immortality." His fate is forever sealed in lines 11-12. if we have read in sonnet 20 that Nature has been in love with the fair lord all along. She therefore saves him presumably for her own gratification. one last example of financial imagery in the fair lord sonnets. but rather admonition: the fair lord's resistance to time's destructive force is ironically (or sadly) just a temporary blessing. is to be found in their ordering and internal structure. and therein show'st / Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow'st. and to what extent are we able to divide the sonnets into groupings and subgroupings? As mentioned elsewhere in this ClassicNote. Another interesting fact is that this sonnet is found misnumbered (as 119) in all extant copies of the Quarto (early editions were printed in small books called quartos) but one. and perhaps it was deliberate: Shakespeare's goal may have been unaffected candor. as lines 3-4 show: "Who hast by waning grown. her treasure.

We even find them elsewhere in the sonnets. Petrarch. but these sonnets do not provide definitive proof. or is there also some ulterior sentiment." his fair lord's indeed are. note that while his "mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. whose beauty he often likened to that of a goddess. while the narrator's honesty in sonnet 130 may seem commendable. The sonnet is generally considered a humorous parody of the typical love sonnet. as in sonnet 49: "And scarcely greet me with that sun. / My mistress. as we see in lines 11-12: "I grant I never saw a goddess go. addressed many of his most famous sonnets to an idealized woman named Laura. too. for she is but a mortal human being. . when she walks. is it really pure honesty that the poet is showing in sonnet 130. She is also not as beautiful as things found in nature. thine eye. However. as though the narrator feels comfortable enough with the dark lady that he is able to show such honesty (which his insecurity regarding the fair lord prevents him from doing)? There are many ways to interpret how the poet's psychological state may have influenced stylistic choices in his writing." Here the poet explicitly states that his mistress is not a goddess. In stark contrast Shakespeare makes no attempt at deification of the dark lady. for example.epigram of sonnet 60." Yet the narrator loves her nonetheless. It is also one of the few of Shakespeare's sonnets with a distinctly humorous tone. / Coral is far more red than her lips' red. we must not forget that Shakespeare himself was a master of the compliment and frequently made use of the very same sorts of exaggerated comparisons satirized here. in fact he shuns it outright. Its message is simple: the dark lady's beauty cannot be compared to the beauty of a goddess or to that found in nature. and in the closing couplet says that in fact she is just as extraordinary ("rare") as any woman described with such exaggerated or false comparisons. perhaps that the dark lady is not deserving of the narrator's fine words? Or perhaps she is deserving but such words are not necessary. It is indeed this blunt but charming sincerity that has made sonnet 130 one of the most famous in the sequence." Sonnet 130 is a pleasure to read for its simplicity and frankness of expression." This may lead one to wonder. that Time "Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth / And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow. another typical source of inspiration for the average sonneteer: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. treads on the ground. and in great abundance.

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