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Shakespeare Sonnet 66: "Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry"

Updated on September 28, 2017
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The real "Shakespeare"
The real "Shakespeare" | Source

Introduction: The Drama of Wordly Contrast

The clever speaker in Shakespeare sonnet 66 offers a wish that turns out to be quite an exaggeration in service of a main point.

As the speaker offers a lucid and valid condemnation of some of the insane thoughts and movements that lead to mediocrity and actual devaluation of honored traditions, he dramatizes again his own talent for creating little dramas in his sonnets.

The speaker's desire to leave all Weltschmerz behind is, however, alleviated by the very act of writing about that world sorrow.

Reading of Sonnet 66

First Quatrain: "Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry"

In the first quatrain of sonnet 66, the speaker announces his brash claim that he "cries" for "restful death." He makes that cry because he is "[t]ir’d with all these" things and issues.

The speaker employs the remaining lines of the poem to catalogue those issues that he has become tired of, and he also wishes to show why these things and issues have fatigued his heart and mind.

First, the speaker complains that people who appear deserving of a good life are often born into and saddled with abject poverty. Having observed this situation and attempting to understand the implications arising therefrom have rendered the speaker tired and weary.

The speaker then announces the next installment from his catalogue which contrasts with the initial offering: those who appear less deserving are many times "trimm’d in jollity," as those with better claim go without.

The speaker next complains that those who have "purest faith" often remain "unhappily forsworn."

The speaker dramatically emphasizes the contrasts that he has observed which exist on the physical plane, unveiling his disapproval of one while increasing the worth of its opposite.

Second Quatrain: "And gilded honour shamefully misplac’d"

In the second quatrain, the speaker continues his list-catalogue of grievances: honor is mislaid; virtue is cheapened; perfection fails to reach its goal; strength remains "disabled" as it goes "limping sway."

The speaker is reporting generalities that remain accurate for all generations down through history. There is ever a current besmirching of honor that is "shamefully misplac’d."

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize has ben devalued substantially as leftist political hacks in committees have down-graded that prize by bestowing it on terrorists like Yasser Arafat and political hacks like Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

The same has happened regarding the Nobel Prize in Literature. By awarding the musical plagiarist, Bob Dylan, with that prize, the committee tarnished its value for all future receivers.

In general, the Nobel Prize has been debased because the committee's left-leaning politics. It bestowed the Peace Prize on the vacuous Barack Obama at the beginning of his presidency before he had had a chance to do anything to qualify for it.

Even that Nobel committee now realizes the error of having such a prestigious prize go to the fledgling president. Geil Lundestad, director of the Nobel Institute has admitted,

"Even many of Obama’s supporters thought that the prize was a mistake," Mr. Lundestad said. In the book, [Lundestad] expressed regret that the decision had been based in a hope for the future rather than recognition of past accomplishments, and that their expectations for Mr. Obama were not fulfilled.

The speaker in sonnet 66 seems to have been especially prescient in this matter.

Third Quatrain: "And art made tongue-tied by authority"

The speaker pressed on with his list of observations of things that gall him to Weltschmerz: art is prostituted by disingenuous movements; folly is perpetuated by "doctor-like" robotic clowns; "simple truth" is rendered simplistic by being falsely labeled "simplicity"; and good is dispossessed by bad.

Contemporary examples of "art made tongue-tied by authority" are the movements in modernist and postmodernist art that misappropriate the stage once valiantly held by craftsmanship and the search for truth, replacing all former excellence and genuine achievement with self-serving mumbo jumbo.

(Examples of postmodernist gibberish posing as art: the folly of Robert Bly, the drivel of Charles Bernstein, and the gloom-filled posturing of Adrienne Rich.)

The Couplet: "Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone"

The speaker again repeats that he is weary of all the hypocrisy that results from disingenuousness and duplicity. He again shares the thought that he would prefer to die and be rid of this world of woe and lies—except for one very significant reason: he would not relish leaving behind his love.

This speaker’s most valued possession remains the divinely inspired gift of his brilliant talent. He employs this exalted talent to exalt his "love."

In the final analysis, this creative and deep-thinking speaker has simply exaggerated his desire for death in order to serve to highlight his little drama displaying worldly contrasts.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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