Sonnet 42: Rationalizing Rejection
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 42 is about a man, the speaker, who is contemplating the loss of his lover to his friend. The speaker is exploring the motive for his lover’s choice of betrayal; more notably he is attempting to explain why this betrayal has occurred with a series of different rationalizations. The speaker appears to believe that he will not be as pained by his loss if he were to rationalize why his lover betrayed him. Shakespeare notoriously wrote three separate types of sonnets. The first set is Sonnets 1-126 which discuss a young man and often deal with the element of time. Sonnet 42 falls into the “young man” category and this character is present as the speaker’s friend. The introduction to this English sonnet, the first quatrain, has the speaker explaining that he is not upset that his friend, the character of the young man, has his lover; rather he is upset that his lover has the young man. Lines 1 and 3 exemplify this, “That thou hast her, it is not all my grief,” “That she hath thee, is of my wailing chief.” This rationalization gives the impression that the speaker is not affected with the young man finding new love even though he is upset for his loss. However, this is not a convincing argument because the reader can observe in the same quatrain, line 4, when he further grieves his loss, “A loss in love that touches me more nearly.” Obviously the speaker’s feelings are not as he expresses in the first three lines because he closes the quatrain with another mention of how dear the lover’s love was to him. The second quatrain of Sonnet 42 begins with the speaker’s second and most complex attempt to rationalize the situation as he pretends that he is not affected by the obvious rejection and betrayal of his lover. In both lines 7 and 8, the speaker says that this betrayal occurred for his benefit, “for my sake….” He gives the reason that the young man was only doing him a favor in seducing the women...
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