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Denouement of the Imbroglio of Love: An explication of Shakespeare’s 31st sonnet

Thy bosom is endeared with all 
Which I by lacking have supposed dead,
And there reigns love and all love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried. 
How many a holy and obsequious tear 
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye
As interest of the dead, which now appear 
But things removed that hidden in thee lie! 
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live, 
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone, 
Who all their parts of me to thee did give; 
That due of many now is thine alone: 
   Their images I loved I view in thee, 
   And thou, all they, hast all the all of me.

Denouement of the Imbroglio of Love


Kevin M. *****

 “Who, being loved, is poor” (Wilde)? Oscar Wilde questions through the character Hester in his play A Woman of No Importance. This as inquiry to the world as an audience resounds thus in the mind: inhibitions to love shelved and picturesque formulations dreamed. Attribute this to a universal human yearning. Though some may deny its true existence, none can deny its fact as a human condition. It is not a single of many imagined factors to contentment; it is the paragon of prerequisites. This quintessential piece completes the universality of humanity: its most basic, elusive, mellifluous, moiety - love and happiness. Aristotelian virtue dictates life to meet one’s measure of capacity for happiness, in other words, love. For one cannot exist without the other, they coexist and balance one another with equal levels of contingency. Thus, Wilde questions, and to the answer, we can only and simply wish due to their mysterious and abstract nature. We each have our own conceptions how these two natures connect. Persons throughout the ages have contemplated repeatedly their purpose and meaning, and each was forced to come to one’s own personal comprehension. Shakespeare is no different. However, Shakespeare handles a moral problem that all feel having felt love from more than one partner. It is common for us to disregard others that we once loved, and throw the thoughts of them into the fire creating animosity and denial of one’s feelings. Shakespeare knows that this is by no means to contend with love’s presence, be it past or present. Love itself is the ultimate gift. In order to handle having lost love, in his thirty-first sonnet Shakespeare molds his conception of true love into a revival of all love lost. Understandably, the notion he creates is that true love for another person itself is worth all of one’s love regardless of when, or to whom it was given.

            Shakespeare begins his explication by means of amorously founding his past romances within the being of his new love. The first line of the sonnet addresses the new love, “thy” (1) and claims that their “bosom is endeared with all” (1). Assumable here is the concept that this one heart, this bosom, holds all haven been endeared, or lovingly given. At the outset, Shakespeare constructs this ideal good of his newfound love, and thus in the following he brings his own humanity within the scope as he admits, “which I by lacking have supposed dead” (2).  The spondaic nature of “I by,” highlights this personal revelation, by which Shakespeare’s “lacking” focused him not to see the cyclic nature of love he explicates (Appendix B). The cause of the spondee can be accredited to the fact that Shakespeare believes the assumption of the death he mentions is itself a mistake, thus the leap from iambs to spondee is a structural device to represent a real error. Continuing, Shakespeare ties the third line to the first as well: “and there reigns love and all love’s loving parts” (3). His new endeared one holds so much of what Shakespeare values for he credits this love to everything having to do with love itself. He ties the fourth line to the second for he says, “and all those friends which I thought buried” (4). Shakespeare insinuates his “friends” are not in essence dead. His dead friends now rest within the loving parts endeared in the bosom of his new love. By this, Shakespeare is delineating his past loves from his new, defining their ultimate difference to be death. However, he now has outlined the existence of his past loves within the context of the new, as if to describe their true similarity despite their ultimate difference. Here we witness Shakespeare already contending with past and present love, having established through this first quatrain their relativity. Though he has been given much to grieve over, Shakespeare appears anticipative; he willingly admits to and forsakes the beliefs of his past with the epiphany of his present.

Persisting, Shakespeare cedes on the pain of losing love and in a form announces his past infatuations, however he proceeds by ending this quatrain with the rediscovery of these past romances outlined in the first quatrain. In his frustration of his own mortality, he openly questions, “how many a holy and obsequious tear” (5). He yields that in the process of losing love, extreme heartache coursed through him. The lost love, the friends buried, Shakespeare admits a love for, while he explains his experience of pain; “have dear religious love stol’n from mine eye” (6). These two lines retain natural meter, as if to aid to the idea of the “obsequious,” and “religious,” nature of his love (Appendix B). In addition, these lines are wrapped in the rhyme scheme “tear” and “appear,” mimicking the tone and meaning. He speaks to a deserved sadness as he explains that the tears were for the “interest of the dead (7).” In a fashion, Shakespeare here admits to his new love that he once deeply cared for others, so much that they earned his tribulation at their deaths. Proceeding, he ends these reveries of the past: “but things removed that hidden in thee lie” (8). Hoping to synthesize their being in his new love, their essence still existing, Shakespeare places them in the soul of another. He pressures “in thee lie,” with stresses, as if to emphasize their death and resurrection in the heart of his pristine love (Appendix B). Though he has explained their relativity and the strength of his past loves, he must now reconcile his past relationships with the existence of the new.

By fortification of his new love, he solidifies its amiable existence in the fact of his past love, constructing true love by the remnants of bygones. Rendered by the pain of having given such love to those whom now are gone, Shakespeare melds the new love with the given and gone; he credits future with past. Shakespeare begins his last quatrain thus: “thou art the grave where buried love doth live” (9). Having already claimed this person to be “endeared with all,” he now acknowledges all past love, every buried affection, the myriad of love laid rest, to lie within his new love. Love perhaps is brought somewhere after death, but to Shakespeare it is brought to the “bosom” of his new love. Alas, since his new love is the holder of his past, it is “hung with the trophies of [his] lovers gone” (10). Now victory of love itself, of every single of Shakespeare’s adorations is crowned upon the new romance. The victory comes at the hands of Shakespeare’s giving of his love, of himself, to those loves gone: “who all their parts of me to thee did give” (11). These strings of Shakespeare’s essence given, are truly won by their revival in “thee.” Love achieves such a measure by giving the love Shakespeare dealt to gone romances to his new love. However, we are left contemplating that Shakespeare and love-giving, in a sense is very open-ended. In a moment that rings of finality, he finishes that movement: “that due of many now is thine alone” (12). What was once dealt out to romances, is now his new love’s solely and “alone.” This third quatrain contains no irregular stresses and stands alone from the other parts of the poem as it being the only part with perfect iambic pentameter (Appendix B). Furthermore, it is the first part of the sonnet to contain perfect and uninterrupted rhyming, all of which lends itself to the notion that Shakespeare believes what he describes in the third quatrain to be the natural way. It is the ideal order. Reconciling his past and present relationships with one another, Shakespeare has yet to inform as to whether he still has yearnings for his past loves, or whether those feelings are now gone.

In the couplet, Shakespeare asserts his past feelings to remain in the past, but their significance to live in the present. Their existence does not hinder his ability to love, no, it fortifies it. The strength of his past loves that he elaborates on in the second quatrain is now at peace for he claims, “their images I loved I view in thee” (13). He “loved” those images that now exist in his new love, what he once loved he now allows himself to love anew. In the last stanza, since his new love has all his love past existing again, he adds one last movement. His new love is more, for this romance has the ultimate form: “thou, all they, hast all the all of me” (14). Here, he forges past love “they,” with new love “thou,” to say that they are one in same, that love is just love. Shakespeare accepts time as overlapping; all of his love, regardless of when it was given or to whom, in the end rests with the one he truly loves. Considering the instances of triple stresses in this sonnet, in line three, in line eight, and lastly in line 14, Shakespeare unites this sonnet in eight words (Appendix B). In short, all love’s love in his new love lie, it is all the all. Shakespeare has reached his own happiness, his own contentment in love, evolving from the supposed chain of time and death into the eternality of true love.

Shakespeare forgave his past in light of his present, and allowed himself, in essence,  to answer Wilde. Relationships had wrought much pain onto Shakespeare, and when he had met someone he knew was true love, he seamlessly fused his past into his reality. He met his capacity for happiness with the contingency of love. Overcoming pain, overcoming loss, we can see Shakespeare vindicate himself through love. No longer poor in spirit, Shakespeare reaches the wealth of happiness in love. However, he would not have been able to do so without the experience of pain. In the fact that he did not lose himself to pain and anger, and decided to reconcile himself with the truth of death, Shakespeare teaches that no one person or past can decide one’s future. This sonnet is naturally didactic in that it educates with experience. His life taught him not to be selfish with love, not to remain in anger, not to feel betrayed by death. Instead, he chose for life to teach him to find the wealth of happiness that rests universally in love.

Appendix A

Appendix A


Thy bosom is endeared with all 
I by lacking have supposed dead,
And there reigns love and all love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried. 
How many a holy and obsequious tear 
Hath dear religious
love stol’n from mine eye
As interest
of the dead, which now appear 
But things removed that hidden in thee lie! 
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live, 
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone, 
Who all their parts of me to thee did give; 
That due of many now is thine alone: 
   Their images I loved I view in thee, 
   And thou, all they, hast all the all of me.

*Spondee     Trochee


1 Background


-This poem is for the first character of the sonnets that Shakespeare is in love with.


2 Terms and Meanings


-Bosom: By 1525 AD bosom was used as a verb to figuratively men to accept someone intimately. Or, a “specially intimate or beloved friend” (OED). This is used by Shakespeare to refer to his new love.

-Obsequious: Showing respect for the dead, a respectful mourning.

-Trophies: Memorial of victory.

-Images: A person simulating the appearance of someone, or as considered as unreal. Possibly a double meaning adding to a Platonic tone to the vision of the dead.



3 Line-by-line


Octet: Description of true love

Q1: Love rests in his new love.

-He thought love was dead

-It lives again

-Despite it being once dead

Q2: The pain of lost love

-His strong love caused him pain

-Love was strong because it was deserved

-But the dead gone are returned in his new love

Q3: How the love returns, its progression

-The affirmation that the dead rest in the new love

-This includes all the goods from them

-He gave them everything and they gave it to his new love

-It is for the new love alone.

C: What this means to the new love

-He loves the old in the new

-And the new love as all of Shakespeare love and all of him.


4 Rhyme (Standard)







5 Couplet Tie


Love (3, 6, 9, 10, 13)  (In that the image of what one’s true love is composed of is the essence of those things which ones has always loved, as is why it is true love)

Appendix B


Thy bosom is endeared with all 
Which I by lacking have supposed dead,
And there reigns love and all love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried. 
How many a holy and obsequious tear 
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye
As interest of the dead, which now appear 
But things removed that hidden in thee lie! 
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live, 
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone, 
Who all their parts of me to thee did give; 
That due of many now is thine alone: 
   Their images I loved I view in thee, 
   And thou, all they, hast all the all of me.

*Bold is a stressed syllable 

5:03 pm     2 notes
February 2 2012
Post tags: work shakespeare love poem poetry essay oscar wilde aristotle

The Preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass. The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art. Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.


10:24 pm     2 notes
October 21 2011
Post tags: I am in love again Oscar Wilde

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Oscar Wilde (via theydontwantustoescape)

(via intimiste)

8:57 am     26 notes
October 9 2011
Post tags: Inspirational Inspiring Life Live Moon Oscar Oscar Wilde Quote Stars Wilde

(Source: softmonsieur, via livresse)

9:14 pm      12 notes
October 1 2011
Post tags: frida gustavsson Oscar Wilde

Most people live for love and admiration. But it is by love and admiration that we should live.

— Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (via ungathering)

(Source: cartographe, via gracelliot)

11:56 pm     7 notes
September 4 2011
Post tags: oscar wilde quote lit

To label is to limit

Oscar Wilde (via livresse)

1:41 pm     5 notes
August 12 2011
Post tags: quote oscar wilde