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Shakespeare Sonnet 70

Updated on May 12, 2020
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 70: "That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect"

Every artist or poet must face criticism. And because criticism consists basically of the opinion of the critic, it is always likely that some critic will give a negative review of the piece of art or sonnet. Unfair critics will always be with us, just a charlatans and poetasters will be. In sonnet 70, this speaker is admonishing his creative soul that it is the best work that is most likely to receive the harshest criticism.

While such a notion might seem to be mere rationalization because poor work can also be harshly criticized, this speaker has proven again and again that he is a genuine artist and that he creates only the "sweetest" works possible. Thus, the readers and listeners of this speaker will remain open to his opinions and will be able to grasp his take on every eventuality with an open mind.

Sonnet 70: "That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect"

That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo’d of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail’d, or victor being charg’d;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy evermore enlarg’d:
If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

Reading of Sonnet 70

Shakespeare Sonnet Titles


The Shakespeare Sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel: "When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text." APA does not address this issue.

Commentary

In sonnet 70, the speaker is addressing his artist soul, assuaging the pangs it might be feeling from unfair criticism.

First Quatrain: Addressing the Artist Inside

That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 70, the speaker addresses his own artist self assuring it that the blame it may incur does not indicate that it is therefore defective. Those who slander always choose what is best because there is no point in running down what is already unworthy of praise.

Such an attitude may be considered a rationalization, but this speaker, as readers have discovered, is secure in his own self-awareness regarding his art. This speaker knows genuine criticism from mere slander. Whenever a beautiful object appears in nature, its opposite appears to tarnish it. Such is the nature of duality on the earth plane.

Second Quatrain: Vowing to Continue Good Work

So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo’d of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.

The speaker then advises his soul to "be good," or continue producing good works, worthy art because "slander doth but approve / Thy worth the greater." Again, the speaker indicates that scandalous criticism by comparison will only showcase the genuineness of the true artist’s creations.

The worm that seeks out "buds" to suckle seeks "the sweetest," and the speaker’s art is "pure unstained prime." It is then a simple matter of logic that such a rare purified art should become a target of unscrupulous critics who endeavor to disparage genuine art in favor of that of an inferior quality.

Third Quatrain: No Longer a Beginner

Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail’d, or victor being charg’d;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy evermore enlarg’d:
If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

The speaker then reminds his artist soul that he is no longer a youth starting out in his chosen art field. This speaker is a mature artist, not an adolescent who can be jerked around by fits and starts of high-flown poetic nonsense.

The praise this speaker/poet receives is for the skill he posses; he crafts his sonnets using the best materials and techniques. This speaker does not engage in his art "[t]o tie up envy" but to produce the best that can be spoken about the spiritual realm as it pertains to the material.

The Couplet: Recognizing True Worth

If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

If unscrupulous shysters did not try to disparage this artist’s creations, he would have to take on the total responsibility of spreading his creations to all those who will, indeed, love his works. While positive criticism works to publicize even the most egregious art, negative or scandalous false criticism can also help publicize even the best art. The speaker has confidence that his art is genuine and that true art lovers will be able to recognize its worth.

Source

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford: The Real "Shakespeare"

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    3 years ago from U.S.A.

    Glad to be of service, Louise. Yes, poetry is fascinating, so versatile, uplifting, entertaining, and educational. I like to think I focus on the educational primarily, but I do enjoy the other qualities of poetry. Have a blessed day!

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    3 years ago from Norfolk, England

    I learn so much from reading your articles. I love poetry.

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