Saturday, 23 July 2016

Sonnet 14

Just in case the Fair Youth or any of us were thinking Shakespeare is some sort of psychic based on his insights on the likelihood of negative events regarding  the ravages of time, Sonnet 14 extinguishes any such thoughts thereby giving the persona a more humanely outlook. The theme of procreation continues and hinges on the comparison between the 'stars' and the Youth's 'eyes', a fairly common comparison in matters involving love where the beloved assumes qualities of everything that is angelic.
Beginning the Sonnet with the word "Not" serves to give it a somewhat categorical feel capturing the attention of the reader; most importantly the Fair Youth. In this first line, Shakespeare also alludes to there being an aura of doubt or disbelief at the use of stars to tell fortunes through the slightly mocking tone the line assumes. As a continued criticism of  fortune tellers, the persona plays on the fact that they often group their visions in only good and evil, "... of good or evil luck," when surely there has to be more than just that. It is probably worth noting that "astrology" ( as defined at the Sonnet's time of construction) played a pivotal role in determining the behaviour of individuals at just about every level of society. However, based on Shakespeare's supposed satirising of this concept, certain individuals who were or thought themselves to be learned were vastly critical of fortune telling as a result as we shall assume the Fair Youth and Shakespeare shared in this disbelieving state, the assertion of procreation would hold more strength if it was distanced from "astrology" as the persona aptly does.
A look at the list that Shakespeare makes of things he cannot foretell would seem as if he can tell very little if anything at all thereby disencumbering  himself from the advisory pedestal the previous Sonnets had facilitated. Why then should the Fair Youth believe or be convinced by one who cannot "...tell of plagues or dearths" or "thunder, rain and wind" that which should be trivial work for any half decent  fortuneteller.
The third quatrain swiftly brushes away any doubts as alas, the persona needs not the stars but the Fair Youth's eyes. Not only does this reflect glowingly on the persona's prognostication talent but also heightens the supposed beauty of the Youth's eyes as they supposedly work just as well as stars at least in the eyes of a sibyl. Through the thriving of truth and beauty, procreation is to take place.  A rather complex message to derive from one's eyes and yet a fitting message as the previous Sonnets reflect.

The final couplet presents a bit of irony as in trying to present the demise of beauty, the persona does in fact predict death contrary to what he seemed to assert earlier in the Sonnet. It seems he is indeed just a regular oracle after all.