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Shakespeare Sonnet 76: "Why is my verse so barren of new pride"

Updated on December 12, 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: Student of Classical Rhetoric

This sonnet attests to the fact that the writer of the Shakespeare works has studied classical rhetoric. He uses the term "invention" which in classical rhetoric is the method for discovering a subject for composition. And he employs the term "argument" which means subject or content.

This knowledge possessed by the writer of these sonnets offers further evidence that the highly educated Edward de Vere was the actual writer of the works attributed to the man called William Shakespeare, who attained little formal learning after leaving grammar school.

One misidentifying biographer has remarked, "It is amazing that William Shakespeare achieved so much after leaving school at the age of fourteen - with only seven years of formal education!"

That would be "amazing" indeed, but the fact is that the man known as William Shakespeare is not the writer of the works attributed to him. The real "William Shakespeare" is Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Reading of Sonnet 76

First Quatrain: "Why is my verse so barren of new pride"

In the first quatrain, the speaker poses two questions: "Why is my verse so barren of new pride / So far from variation or quick change?" He asks why his sonnets are always exploring the same subject and theme, without any variance of notice.

Then the speaker asks his second question: "Why with the time do I not glance aside / To new-found methods and to compounds strange?" He then asks why he never seems to look anywhere for inspiration other than his accustomed place.

This speaker never explores any new manner of expression or any other "compounds strange," or other subjects.

The reader who has examined all of the sonnets from 1 through 75 can well understand these queries. The speaker/writer has used only one form, the sonnet, and while the sonnets are traditionally sectioned into three subject areas by academics, a closer look can reveal that all, indeed, focus on the same general area: the poet’s talent and love of writing.

Second Quatrain: "Why write I still all one, ever the same"

In the second quatrain, the speaker continues with another question, which essentially is a reiteration of the first two. He wonders why his writing is "ever the same." He never departs from his theme and never attempts to "invent" new subjects matter to dress in a new fashioned way.

This speaker "keep[s] invention in a noted weed"—the same subject dressed in the same clothing or sonnet form.

The speaker then says that, "every word doth almost tell my name." This claim accurately reports that fact that an artist’s writing is as unique for identification as a fingerprint.

The clever speaker avers that everything he writes demonstrates the same origin and the same progress.

Third Quatrain: "O! know, sweet love, I always write of you"

Then the speaker addresses his "sweet love" and remarks, "I always write of you."

The speaker adds that, "you and love are still my argument." He dramatically confesses that his one subject is all he cares about, and he spends his time "dressing old words new" and "[s]ending again what is already spent."

The speaker has no qualms about his seeming repetitiveness. He loves and understands his subject so well that he can present it from any number of viewpoints.

The Couplet: "For as the sun is daily new and old"

The couplet likens the speaker's "love" to the sun, which is always the same yet still "daily new."

The speaker tells "what is told" and by the retelling makes his love new. He reveals that his considerable talent has afforded him the process for experiencing new joy in perpetuity.

The speaker's story, even as it seems to remain the same, becomes new through the speaker's ingenuity and because of his intense, abiding love of his main subject.

Thus, this speaker is engulfed in ever new joy, as he continues to create and re-create his little dramas filled with lovely images that represent his favorite love thoughts.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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