‘Sonnet 105,’ also known as ‘Let not my love be called idolatry,’ is one of William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. This piece is part of the Fair Youth series of poems in which the poet’s speaker, whose usually considered to be Shakespeare himself, shows his devotion to a young man. This person is known as the “Fair Youth” and has never been identified. Scholars and lovers of Shakespeare’s sonnets have different opinions regarding who this person is and what role they played, or didn’t play, in the writer’s life.
Explore Sonnet 105
In this poem’s first lines, the speaker begins by asking that his poetry is not considered “idolatry.” He is writing about the same person all the time, but he’s also varying how he writes, exploring three specific themes. They are beauty, kindness, and faithfulness, or as the speaker says, “Fair, kind, and true.” He concludes the poem by saying that since his love is so constant, so too will his verse be. The Fair Youth is the only example he’s been able to find where these three themes live together in harmony.
In ‘Sonnet 105,’ Shakespeare engages with themes of writing and love/devotion. The speaker directs his words to someone he cares deeply for. He makes his love evident through his verse and through his determination to never be swayed from his muse. He speaks about his writing as something directly influenced by his relationship with this person and how he views them.
Structure and Form
‘Sonnet 105’ by William Shakespeare is a traditional fourteen-line sonnet that follows the pattern that Shakespeare is remembered for today. It conforms to a consistent rhyme scheme that conforms to ABAB CDCD EFEF GG pattern, and it is written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter means that each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed, and the second is stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM. From his poems to his plays, the vast majority of Shakespeare’s work was written in iambic pentameter.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 105’. These include but are not limited to examples:
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines three and four.
- Alliteration: the repetition of words with the same consonant sound. For example, “Since” and “songs” in line three and “which wondrous” in line twelve.
- Anaphora: the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “Fair, kind, and true” which starts three lines.
Let not my love be called idolatry,
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 105,’ the speaker begins by using the line that is often used to identify this piece of writing. He says that he doesn’t want his love to be called “idolatry,” or the worship of idols because he’s spent so much time writing about the same person (and always will). His songs are all “alike,” and his praises are “To one.”
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse to constancy confined,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
He goes on in the next four lines to state that his love is “love to-day, to-morrow kind.” In this example, he’s using the word “love” to refer to the person he loves, the Fair Youth. His “constancy” is not in question, and neither is the poet’s verse. The two remain in line together.
Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,
Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,
Which three till now, never kept seat in one.
The ninth line of ‘Sonnet 105’ begins with an example of anaphora. The phrase “Fair, kind, and true” is used at the beginning of lines nine, ten, and thirteen to emphasize how the speaker values beauty, kindness, and faithfulness more than anything else. He wrote about these things in variable ways, and this is how he plans on extending his creativity. Some elements of his writing, the things he likes to write about, are going to remain the same. It’s only how he writes about them that’s going to change. These three themes offer him more than enough “scope” to explore. He says that his three themes of beauty, kindness, and faithfulness are usually separate from one another in the final lines. That is until the speaker found the Fair Youth.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Sonnet 105’ should also consider reading some more William Shakespeare poems. For example:
- ‘Sonnet 12’— uses a series of images and metaphors to depict the ravages of time and what all young people, including the Fair Youth, are going to have to face.
- ‘Sonnet 27’— dwells on exhaustion and hope and how both are associated with a young man.
- ‘Sonnet 38’— focuses on the importance of the speaker’s muse, the Fair Youth, and how integral the young man is to the poet’s writing.