Sonnet 21 – A poem by William Shakespeare

Context: This sonnet mentions the Muse, in Classic mythology she was one of nine and here she represents her own element – poetry. This poem is about the narrator’s own attitude towards written verse and challenges any criticism his verse isn’t real or fake. Take notice on how he introduces himself here. He is not like any classic representation of the muse and his verse has not any ‘painted beauty’ which refers to make-up, cosmetics. When he adress his love through poetry he doesn’t use of superfluous words or add certain words to impress or boast. He chose to praise ‘truthfulness’ since he is in love for real. The structure of the poem follows the English sonnet with three quatrains followed by a couplet.

Themes: Love, virtue, truth, beauty all important keywords in Elizabethan culture and must be interpreted in its own context. What did these words represents in Shakespeare’s own time? Another theme is rivalry between poets.


Q1: So is it not with me as with that Muse

Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse,

Who heaven itself for ornament doth use

And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,

Q2: Making a couplement of proud compare,

With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,

With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare

That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.

Q3: O, let me, true in love, but truly write,

And then believe me, my love is as fair

As any mother’s child, though not so bright

As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air:

C: Let them say more that like of hearsay well;

I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

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