Monday, 12 September 2016

Sonnet 24

Widely perceived to be a bit of a cliché work of art, Sonnet 24 is a haven for the largely common place Renaissance  conceit connecting heart and eye. One Henry Charles Beeching even speculates that it might be a half-serious spoof of a clichéd type of poem. However, we will strive to take it as seriously as possible because there is really no way Shakespeare could have been goofing off on any Sonnets... Or is there?
As has already been noted, this Sonnet hinges on a metaphorical bond between the eye and the heart. An irrevocably essential combination as one can quite literally fall in love with what or whom they have seen. Whilst of course other senses: smell, hearing and touch are quite important; they fall well short of the influence sight has. 

Personifying the eyes from the very first line, serves to ensure clarity in what is to be expressed and gives the rest of the Sonnet a bit of a categorical tone. On the other hand, there seems to be a notable implication that this love is a bit of a superficial one. Obviously, this is no problem for most of us because we prefer that love, it's definitely the looks that really matter but Shakespeare's love should be made of sterner stuff.
Just as the eyes are the painter, the heart the canvas, the body is the frame, one would think seeing as the persona is naught but a frame, he plays a very minimal role in this whole arrangement and yet no, it is only by him, by his eyes even the subject of the canvas, the Fair Youth can know his true beauty, his true worth. Wow...really??? 

Perfectly understandable if only the rest of us had to be shown by the painter what lies within the canvas, "For .... must you see his skill...To find where your true mage pictured lies," but for the Fair Youth hmmm. This seems a lot like an unhealthily dependant relationship, possibly without meaning to imply it, Shakespeare is simply saying the Youth's worth hinges on his ability to express it. In sterner terms, the Youth is worthless without the persona. The modern day equivalent of an abusive relationship. Admittedly, we've clearly taken a bit of a negative swing at Shakespeare here where lines 5 and 6 could simply be pointing to a beauty glittered with flattery; the sort of flattery only the 'painter' could properly deliver and thus vindicating the persona's words.

Like true soul mates (if we can go that far), the Youth's eyes also have a part to  play in this quite remarkable relationship, they see into the persona's heart. It is either these are pretty penetrative eyes or Shakespeare is helplessly susceptible. The latter does seem to be the more plausible scenario seeing as he appears to lament the fact that his own eyes are not capable of the same in the final couplet. Based merely on this and calls to preserve the 'love' in the previous Sonnet, it does seem as if some sort of infidelity exists and the poet is the victim. Read into it what you will considering that everyone thinks it is pretty convenient to play the victim.

Sonnet 24 may not be the most dramatic Sonnet,  definitely not the most emotive and the analysis had us clutching at straws for quite a bit and yet embroidered in its lethargic nature are some interesting insights into the relationship the Fair Youth and Shakespeare shared.