Shakespeare often uses gender for inanimate objects:
The hardest knife ill-used doth lose HIS edge (i.e. last line of Sonnet 95).
Is it possible Shakespeare’s dark lady is ink – la encre or l’encre (French f.)
and the fair man is paper – le papier (French m.)?
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell:
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.
That's an interesting idea, but why would ink be evil and paper fair? I know quite a few authors have said that a blank page is potential perfection and what they put on it must mar it, being imperfect, but I find it quite hard to accept that Shakespeare would be so completely negative about his work, when that was his living and, judging by the amount he wrote, his obsession. I don't know a great deal about the theories about the sonnets, but thought the experts (such as they be) had found several to the dark lady - would they all fit your theory, or just the one you quoted?
Haven't looked into it yet. But the French word for hell is 'enfer' which sounds a lot like 'infer' in English. Foul may be a play on quill pen (fowl) or may mean foul papers. Does anyone have a French translation of Shakespeare's sonnets?
There are translations available, probably at your college library: [www.google.com] />
This goes into detail, but not as discussed above
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2007 01:55PM by JohnnyBoy.
Les: Thanks for the excellent web site.
JohnnyBoy: Thanks for the link; you must have gone out of your way.
Mariane22: I find the word/words black, dark…or ill-coloured complexion in only a few of the sonnets, perhaps just five.
Sonnet 147 seems of interest however.
My love is as a fever longing still,
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed;
For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
"My love" may be an obsession for language or writing, as you have suggested.
I have sworn (legal word) thee fair (French - franc jeu - fair play, or a good play) and thought you bright (witty, intelligent).
Who art (palette, colour, ink) as black as hell, as dark as night.
Yet another French word for 'fair' is 'beau' - handsome male escort, boyfriend.
Poets speak in double talk and if using several languages and punning, things get difficult. I'll leave this to 'the experts” who get paid to guess.
I'll have to have a long think about that - it's very interesting. I've always felt that Shakespeare's sonnets were too numerous to be entirely about love (in fact the sheer number of them put me off when I was younger), esp as he got older. But as love was the obsession of the gentry, poets and the court perhaps he had to keep on producing poems ostensibly about it. It's quite likely that he might disguise other obsessions in love poems using puns and other word tricks to stave off repetitiveness and boredom. All a theory, of course, but I'm finding the sonnets increasingly more interesting and relevant as I get older - which I find rather strange as the appeal of and interest in romantic love palls as you get older and other people's love poetry doesn't have that effect at all - I tend to avoid it. The complexity of Shakespeare's sonnets and their hidden meanings (subconsciously appreciated) might be the cause of the interest.
From Johnnyboy's link: Barley-Break - An old country game....originally played by six persons (three of each sex) in couples; one couple, being left in a middle den termed ‘hell,’ It seems to have been a variation on the simple game of tig...... It is not certain that the mere use of the word hell is proof that Shakespeare was alluding to this game, although the fact that it was described by Sidney in his Arcadia, and that its alternative name was 'Last-in-Hell' may be significant
This would suggest "hell" is place in the middle, or the author caught between the paper and the ink.