|Shakespeare is the Fair Youth's 'slave' in Sonnet 57|
However, other sonnets, including 57, provide a very different tone.
The theme of Sonnet 57 leads on from the previous Sonnet 56, which speaks of the poet's concern over the youth’s flagging affections.
In 57, however, the situation seems to have become more serious and the poet is experiencing jealousy over the young man’s extended periods spent with various other people.
What is Shakespeare Saying in Sonnet 57?
|What should I do but tend upon the hours |
and times of your desire?
Sonnet 57 opens with Shakespeare referring to himself as the young man’s “slave”. It is often assumed that the Fair Youth was a patron of Shakespeare’s and, therefore, the poet had to make himself available when the young man called for him.
He goes on to ask, “...what should I do but tend/Upon the hours and times of your desire?” The implication being that Shakespeare has no way to fill his time, but to wait until his patron and friend desires his company.
Given the poet’s prolific output, it’s difficult to imagine that he has “...no precious time at all to spend/Nor services to do, till you require.” Nevertheless, that's what he claims.
Is Shakespeare Upset With the Fair Youth?
However, he refuses to become angry or frustrated by the time spent waiting. Instead, he tells the Fair Youth that, “Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour/Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour.” In addition, he claims to have no bitterness towards the youth or the time he spends with others, “Nor think the bitterness of absence sour/When you have bid your servant once adieu.”
But to paraphrase one of Shakespeare’s other works, perhaps the poet doth protest too much. After all, he wouldn’t be writing the poem if he wasn't hurt by the fact his dear friend has found better ways to fill his time.
|To paraphrase Gertrude, perhaps Shakespeare's |
protesting too much in Sonnet 57
He goes on to admit to having “jealous thoughts,” but claims that he is able to keep these in check and so does not question the young man’s whereabouts or who he might be with.
Shakespeare as His Patron's Sad Slave
In the concluding verses, the poet returns to referring to himself as a “sad slave” who sits alone and thinks of nothing except hope that his young friend is happy in his pursuits.
Shakespeare ends by admitting that his hours spent pining for the Fair Youth are foolishly spent, but states that, “So a fool is love that in your will/Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.”
In other words, one in love is incapable of feeling ill toward the object of affection regardless of where that person may go and what she, or in this case he, may do.
Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where you are how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love that in your will,
Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.