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Shakespeare Sonnet 70: "That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect"
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Introduction: Facing Unfair Criticism
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.
Reading of Sonnet 70
First Quatrain: "That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect"
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: "So thou be good, slander doth but approve"
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: "Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days"
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: "If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show"
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.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes