‘Sonnet 113’ is one of William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. It is directed towards a young man known as the “Fair Youth.” This person has never been identified in real life, nor has the true nature of the poet’s relationship with him been uncovered. This has led many readers and scholars to speculate about Shakespeare’s sexuality or if the poet is meant to be the speaker in the lines of ‘Sonnet 113.’ Depending on which sonnet readers focus on, the relationship might be romantic, lovingly platonic, or purely sexual.
Explore Sonnet 1113
Since he’s been away from the Youth, his affection for the young man has not waned. In fact, it’s only become more impassioned. The speaker sees the Youth wherever he goes and in whatever landscape is before his eyes. His mind is completely caught up in the Youth’s image. It has taken over his eyes. By the end of the poem, it’s clear how involved the speaker is with this young man. There’s nowhere he can go and nothing he can do without thinking of him. The lines of ‘Sonnet 113’ are a great representation of the truism “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Shakespeare engages with several interesting themes in ‘Sonnet 113.’ These include beauty and love. The speaker spends the entirety of this poem exploring how he sees the world since he’s been separated from the Youth. His devotion to this young man is a great depiction of how love can influence the way one sees the world. In his case, he can’t look at anything without seeing the Fair Youth. His beauty outshines everything around, from birds to mountains.
Structure and Form
‘Sonnet 113’ by William Shakespeare is a fourteen-line sonnet that follows a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, the traditional pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet. It is written in iambic pentameter, the most common of all English meters. In iambic pentameter, 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. ‘Sonnet 113’ can also be divided into three sets of four lines and a final two-line couplet. The last couplet usually comes after the turn or volta. In this case, the couplet acts as a final summary of everything the poet’s speaker has said so far.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 113’. These include but are not limited to examples:
- Caesura: occurs when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line of verse, for example,
- Imagery: is used when the poet creates particularly effective descriptions of sensory experiences. They should make the reader feel, see, hear, taste, or feel as if they’re touching whatever the speaker is describing. For example, “For it, no form delivers to the heart / Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth latch.”
- Alliteration: the repetition of words with the same consonant sound. For example, “mine” and “mind” in line one as well as “most,” “mind,” and “maketh mine” in line fourteen.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines five and six as well as lines two and three.
Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind;
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 113,’ the speaker begins by alluding to a period of separation he endured away from the Fair Youth. It likely connects back to the speaker’s roving behavior in ‘Sonnet 109’ and ‘Sonnet 110.’ Since he’s left the youth, his “eye” has become his mind. Meaning, he sees only what his mind wishes him to see. It is in control. But, there is a catch, as the following lines unveil. His mind wants to see what it wants to see. This means everyday sights and experiences are transformed.
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth latch:
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
The speaker adds that there is no form his eye, “it,” delivers that is not influenced by the Youth. This means everything from a flower to a bird, a mountain, or the sea (as the following lines state) is remade with the youth in mind. The eye catches onto and holds things, sending them to the speaker’s mind.
For if it see the rud’st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour or deformed’st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow, or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus maketh mine eye untrue.
In these next lines, he finally finishes the sentence, saying that all these things are transformed into images of the Youth. Each mountainscape, bird, flower, or “deformed’st creature” he sees reminds him of the Youth’s features. They, like his heart and mind, are unable to do anything but think of the Youth. The world is replete with the Youth’s image. The speaker’s “true mind” is only capable of seeing the Youth. He’s the only thing worth seeing. This poem is a great representation of several common topics readers can find in Shakespeare’s poems. He was fond of writing about the mind/eye as well as various separations between his speaker and the Fair Youth.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Sonnet 113’ should also consider reading some of William Shakespeare’s other best-known sonnets. For example:
- ‘Sonnet 18’ – a famous sonnet in which the speaker begins by asking if he can or should compare his beloved to a summer’s day.
- ‘Sonnet 101’ – directed at the speaker’s muse who is failing to provide him with needed inspiration.
- ‘Sonnet 116’ – one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable love sonnets. It speaks on love and what “true” love should be defined as.