April 21, 1995
Certainly one does not feel all warm and fuzzy at the end of this sonnet sequence, but, as the last line indicates, sourly sweet. The image of the “sweet thief which sourly robs” is representative of a way of looking at life, especially with the approach of the twenty-first century. The poet will still see the beauty in his friend, but that beauty will not be self-deceiving—this fact will take even more imagination and hard work than his fantasy vision did. The wonderful bliss of innocence is lost, but that is part of the human condition—nothing is constant—we must always be able to adapt or die. Life is that “sweet thief” which sourly robs from us all.
Perhaps we need Shakespeare more now than the Elizabethans did? Twentieth-century humanity is as guilty as ever of conjuring false visions of Nirvana only to become disillusioned and disenfranchised when they are discovered not to have a basis in reality. The unwillingness to work at a relationship, to incorporate every bit of strength and productive imagination, is detrimental to humanity. Humanity needs relationships, relationships are built and maintained by the ability to see the true beauty of someone; therefore, humanity needs beauty. Therefore, we still need Shakespeare, though any thorough analysis of the sonnets, indeed all of his works, is complicated, confusing, and never complete. This, however, mirrors relations between humans: never can we know everything and rarely is it simple. Shakespeare provides the basis of beauty in his understanding of the existential human condition—by attempting to understand Shakespeare we can develop into “true minds” free of “impediments” whom Shakespeare addresses in Sonnet 116.
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