Copyright

Shakespeare's Sonnet 79: Analysis, Overview

Instructor: Debbie Notari
Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets in his lifetime. Sonnet 79 not only shows his devoted love for a woman but his honesty about having writer's block as well.

Sonnet 79

A Shakespearean Sonnet is a 14-line poem that follows a rhyme scheme of three quatrains and a couplet: abab, cdcd, efef, and gg. In addition, each line follows a pattern of iambic pentameter, five feet of unstressed and stressed syllables.

The subject matter of a sonnet is almost always love. Sometimes it is unrequited love, but it usually involves the deep admiration of the suitor toward his love interest.

Sonnet 79 states:

Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,

My verse alone had all thy gentle grace,

But now my gracious numbers are decay'd

And my sick Muse doth give another place.

I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument

Deserves the travail of a worthier pen,

Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent

He robs thee of and pays it thee again.

He lends thee virtue and he stole that word

From thy behavior; beauty doth he give

And found it in thy cheek; he can afford

No praise to thee but what in thee doth live.

Then thank him not for that which he doth say,

Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost pay.

Interpretation:

Lines one and two: When I first asked you for help, I had gotten a good start at writing this sonnet.

Lines three and four: But, I ran out of ideas. My own muse was failing me, but another took its place.

Lines five and six: Someone as stunning as you deserves a better writer's pen. (The speaker is showing modest self-deprecation.)

Lines seven and eight: Anything I might write about you just comes from observing you. You give me the ideas I need. You are the muse.

Lines nine, ten and 11 (a): If I write about your beauty, I was inspired by looking at your face; if I write about your virtue, I simply observe your behavior.

Lines 11 (b) and 12: Every wonderful thing I could say about you is obviously a part of you. I can't create you in a more positive light than what is already true about you.

Lines 13 and 14: So, don't thank me for my compliments. I am only showing you what is already yours.

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