Shakespeare Sonnet 138

Poetry, Sonnet 138

Justifying Mutual Deceit
A common conception of William Shakespeare’s poetry entails complex language and hidden meanings. Shakespeare is famous for his ability to author a web of images that creates layers of interpretations and understandings. In Sonnet 138 however, Shakespeare is more direct in describing his relationship with his lover by avoiding imagery and metaphors, explaining to the reader that this seemingly unconventional relationship is indeed justified. Shakespeare constructs a persona of the speaker in a way that establishes a casual and conversational relationship with the reader. This allows for an open disclosure of the mutual hypocrisies between himself and his lover while leaving his steadfast candor to convince the reader that Shakespeare’s affirmations concerning love are acceptable. Shakespeare’s elimination of imagery allows for a reliance on diction that he takes advantage of by selecting words with double meanings, creating a reflexive manner about the poem for the reader to explore. Shakespeare conveys the meaning of the poem, that mutual deceit is compatible with love, with the seemingly straightforward language that connects the reader to the speaker while forcing the reader to think twice about certain words that deepen the surface understanding.

As in all Shakespearean sonnets, the structure of the poem plays an important role, as the three quatrains and final couplet often represent transitions in tone, language and meaning. However, Sonnet 138 differs from the norm as the first two quatrains do not provide a shift, but are rather a continuation of one another, and the shift comes in at the end of that first octave, as the third quatrain explains how this situation has come about and why it works. Finally, the couplet provides an overall conclusion of the preceding lines and gives a definite ending to the poem. The speaker depicts the story of himself and his lover in the first three quatrains with curt language that allow less...
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