Shakespeare's Sonnet 102
Poet and screenwriter, Susan Griffin, once said, “A story is told as much by silence as by speech.” This statement underlines the fact that just because words are not spoken, it does not mean that there is no meaning behind the silence. Someone’s lack of words can have as much, if not even more, power as another’s most persuasive speech. In Sonnet 102, Shakespeare explains why he believes in the power of silence regarding his feelings towards his true love. His allusion to the nightingale correlates perfectly with the paradox of his increasing love for a woman in conveying the sonnet’s overall theme that silence is always preferable to just meaningless words.
In the sonnet, Shakespeare uses the allusion of the nightingale to describe his love of a young woman. He states, “Our love was new…/ when I was wont to greet it…/ as Philomel in summer’s froth doth sing” (lines 5-7), comparing the speaker’s love as his relationship with the woman progresses to that of nightingale’s song. In classical times, the nightingale was widely referred to as Philomel. In Roman and Greek mythology, Philomela was a woman turned into a nightingale by the Gods to save her from the hands of rapist. Because of the violence associated with the myth, the nightingale’s song is often interpreted as a lament, but it is also construed to symbolize beauty and even, such as in the case of this poem, love. In a factual sense, a nightingale is a small bird that frequently sings at night as well as in the day, standing out as one of the only birds that sing after the sun descends. By comparing his love to Philomel after she “stops her pipe in growth of riper days” (8), he makes his theme of silence clear. Even the most vocal of birds such as the nightingale knows when to stop singing its beautiful song, showing the world how much he truly loves it by offering a moment of peace and quiet. This resembles the feelings of the narrator because even though he loves