Sonnet 146 is well known for its deeply intriguing religious aspect, as it is one of Shakespeare’s religious sonnets and almost the only religious one. It is religious as its tone mentions its concern with heaven, asceticism and also the progress of the soul all through out the sonnet. The idea that the poet was trying to convey to his audience is that the body exists at the expense of the soul, so that adorning or worrying about its beauty can only be accomplished at the souls expense.
The poem is an internal monologue, which makes it first person point of view. This helps the audience understand that he is talking to himself and whom he is talking about. This sonnet can also be referred to as mediation between the soul and the body relationship. The imagery in the first line ‘my sinful earth’ stands out as it has a stronger tone with iambic pentameter, which causes ‘my’ to have an emphasised tone.
The sentence then reflects the image of us, as it is our responsibility to keep this earth well.
With the use of Shakespears imagery throughout the sonnet, he did a good job on structuring the poem so that we can understand the basis of our life and then moves onto more religious aspects of the sonnet. Sound is also a technique used in the poem to slow down the pace. In line 11 ‘buy terms divine in selling hours of dross’, sounds smooth because of the slight consonance sound of ‘s’ and makes this line sound serious and gloomy.
Throughout the sonnet the speaker is continuously asking himself questions.
This affected myself as when I was reading the poem it started to make me think about all the rhetorical questions. Is this really life? The poets use of rhetorical questions through out the sonnet is quite redeeming as he asks his soul why it allows itself to suffer for the sake of its ‘sinful earth’. In line 7 of the sonnet the poet questions his soul’s expenditure on bodily ‘excess’ knowing that it will all go to the worms in the end anyway. The most important metaphor in this poem is the beginning line ‘poor soul the centre of my sinful earth’, where earth represents the place we live in.
The words poor and sinful are both negative. We can understand through this negative tone that the poet or the ‘earth’ in this sonnet is a bad place and we then link ‘sinful’ to ungodliness, which is what the whole poem is about. Another example of metaphor used in this poem is found in the second quatrain; ‘fading mansion’ which is used the represent our body. This metaphor explains that our souls are slowly dying and becoming very dull and fading as we do not live our lives like we are suppose to, according to the poet.
In line 13 ‘so shalt thou feed on death, gives us the audience a thought that we must constantly be thinking about death and also as a part of human nature we ponder about life. In other words, for this metaphor, we as humans feed on death, which in turns feeds on us. ‘Why so large a cost, having so short a lease’ this ‘lease’ refers to life, which is short as we as humans are not immortal. This metaphor asks why we as humans put so much effort into life when death comes so quickly. Closing couplet: The metaphor from the 3rd quatrain is continued and expanded in the closing couplet.
It finishes from the 1st quatrain of the starving person within the mansion and then turns into irony of the idea that death feeds on humans. And in the last lines, ‘death’ and ‘dying’ are words used as imagery to describe and give us the final image of eternal life. Shakespeare, with the use of vivid imagery, makes us understand that we as humans cannot live forever. What we do to ourselves will also not last forever and eventually it will become dull. The metaphors in this sonnet helps how we think about ourselves as humans, though we are civilised we still tend to neglect morals and we will always have flaws in life.
When I read through this, I cant help but question myself about my existence here in the world and what will happen when we eventually do pass on. With the use of these rhetorical questions it does get the audience questioning themselves and really interacts with the reader and Shakespeare has done this very well. He shows us that we make the best use of our time and work on our soul instead of our external self and with the use of his language techniques; Shakespeare can clearly demonstrate this point to the readers.