Sonnet 43

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For Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, see Sonnets from the Portuguese.
Sonnet 43

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

–William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Sonnet 43 employs antithesis and paradox to highlight the speaker's yearning for his beloved and sadness in (most likely) his absence, and confusion about the situation described in the previous three sonnets.

Paraphrase[edit]

I see best when my eyes are closed. All day I am forced to look on what I do not care about; only at night, when my dreaming eyes see you, do I truly see. For even your image (i.e., shadow) brightens all the shadows of a dream, and how much brighter you are in daylight, when you may be seen in reality? How much, then, would it delight me to see you in reality, when already your image in my dreams makes them so bright? Until I can see you again, my days are as dark as night because of your absence, and my nights as bright as day because of your sight in my dreams.

William Shakespeare's Sonnet 43 employs antithesis and paradox to highlight the speaker's yearning for his beloved and sadness in (most likely) his absence, and confusion about the situation described in the previous three sonnets. It's a love and dream theme. For another of Shakespeare's sonnets dealing with night, sleep and dreams see Sonnet 27.

Source and analysis[edit]

This is one of the poems omitted from the pirated edition of 1640. Gerald Massey notes an analogous poem in Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, 38.

Stephen Booth notes the concentration of antithesis used to convey the impression of a speaker whose emotions have inverted his perception of the world.

Edmond Malone glosses "unrespected" as "unregarded." Line 4 has received a number of broadly similar interpretations. Edward Dowden has "darkly bright" as "illumined, though closed"; he glosses the rest of the line "clearly directed in the darkness." Sidney Lee has the line "guided in the dark by the brightness of your shadow," while George Wyndham prefers "In the dark they heed that on which they are fixed."

In line 11, Edward Capell's emendation of the quarto's "their" to "thy" is now almost universally accepted.

Musical settings[edit]

The sonnet was set to music by Benjamin Britten as the last song of his eight song cycle Nocturne Op. 60 (1958) for tenor, 7 obbligato instruments (flute, clarinet, cor anglais, bassoon, French horn, timpani, harp) and strings.

Rufus Wainwright's "Sonnet 43", the sixth track on his album All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu (2010), is a musical setting of the sonnet.

A 2007 production by The Public Theater of King Lear in Central Park featured incidental music by Stephen Sondheim and Michael Starobin. It included a setting of Sonnet 43 by Sondheim.

References[edit]

  • Alden, Raymond. The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1916.
  • Baldwin, T. W. On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1950.
  • Booth, Stephen. Shakespeare's Sonnets. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
  • Dowden, Edward. Shakespeare's Sonnets. London, 1881.
  • Evans, G. Blakemore, and Anthony Hecht, eds. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Hubler, Edwin. The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952.
  • Levy, David (4 November 2013). "http://fuckyeahstephensondheim.tumblr.com/post/66015392196/when-the-public-theater-did-king-lear-in-central". Fuck Yeah Stephen Sondheim. Retrieved 8 November 2013

External links[edit]