Sonnet 34

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Sonnet 34

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?
'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
For no man well of such a salve can speak,
That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief;
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss:
The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence's cross.
Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.

–William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Sonnet 34 is the second of the sequence, running until Sonnet 36, concerned with an unspecified sin committed against the speaker by a person the speaker loves.

Paraphrase[edit]

Why did you hold out the promise of a beautiful day, causing me to leave home without even a cloak, when now you have allowed clouds to hide your radiance? It is not enough in recompense that you break through the clouds and dry the rain on my face, because no one can speak well of a remedy that heals the wound but does not remove the disgrace of having been wounded. Similarly, your grief does not heal my grief; although you repent, I am still injured, and an offender's guilt offers little succor to the person who must bear the burden of the offense. Oh, but your remorseful tears are as precious as pearls, and they are so valuable that they redeem all your ill deeds.

Source and analysis[edit]

Following Horace Davis, Stephen Booth notes the similarity of this poem in theme and imagery to Sonnet 120. The quarto's "loss" was emended to "cross" by Edmond Malone and Edward Dowden; the emendation is now almost universally accepted. Gerald Massey finds an analogue to lines 7-8 in The Faerie Queene, 2.1.20.

The strong contrast between the first twelve lines and the couplet is often noted, but judged variously. The Christian overtones of "ransom," a word often used for Christian salvation, have been widely noted; for some structurally oriented critics, such as Booth and Joel Fineman, the couplet is notable for the way in which it echoes and transforms the metaphor of the opening line in a way that blurs the identity of lover and beloved.

Interpretations[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Alden, Raymond (1916). The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.
  • Baldwin, T. W. (1950). On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
  • Booth, Stephen (1977). Shakespeare's Sonnets. Yale University Press, New Haven.
  • Dowden, Edward (1881). Shakespeare's Sonnets. London.
  • Evans, G. Blakemore, Anthony Hecht, (1996). Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Fineman, Joel (1984). Shakespeare's Perjur'd Eye: Representations. pp. 59-86.
  • Hubler, Edwin (1952). The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  • Kerrigan, John (1987). Shakespeare's Sonnets. Penguin, New York.
  • Schoenfeldt, Michael (2007). The Sonnets: The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Poetry. Patrick Cheney, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Tyler, Thomas (1989). Shakespeare’s Sonnets. London D. Nutt.
  • Vendler, Helen (1997). The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

External links[edit]