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The Conundrum of Sonnet 24: 'mine Eye Hath Played the Painter' by Shakespeare

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The aim of this paper is to analyze Shakespeare's sonnet 24, focusing on the commentaries and interpretations of John Kerrigan and Helen Vendler. This paper will first introduce what the sonnet is about and how the form of the sonnet impacts its meaning. After that it goes on to analyse the Helen Vendler's and John Kerrigan's commentaries on the sonnet with a critical view. Their comments and theories in a critical aspect will be used to shed light on the sonnet's complexity and its meaning. It will include how external factors as well as a few words within the sonnet can impact that meaning. Finally the analysis will be used to answer if it is possible to conclude what the sonnet is about its meaning or intentions.

The poet imagines himself as a painter looking at his beloved, engraving his image unto his heart. He imagines his body being the frame that surrounds that beauty. Perspective is the greatest skill of a painter and only through the painter's eyes, can the lover see his own image which has been created inside the painter's heart. The image has the painter's beloved's eyes as windows into his own heart. The painter asks: can you see what our eyes have done for each other? The painter's eyes have drawn his beloved's image for him to look at: and his lover's eyes in turn are windows through which the sun loves too shine and enable the painter to see into his own heart and gaze upon the image of his beloved inside it. It seems the poet here returns to reality and says that unfortunately eyes can only draw what they see, not the emotions invested in the objects of their affection.

At first sonnet 24 seems like a very conventional love poem. The sonnet is built up like a usual sonnet and follows the usual rhyme-scheme of 3 quatrains and a couplet but breaks the rules of rhyme-repetition. 'Thy beauty's form in table of my heart' 'And pérspective it is best painter's art.' 'Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art, / They draw but what they see, know not the heart.' H. Vendler, American critic of poetry draws upon a very interesting point regarding this: breaking these rules must signify the meaning of these lines. However she only goes as far as saying that the reason for this rhyme repetition is self explanatory, which is a rather one-dimensional view. She states that the line 'pérspective it is best painters art' 'collapses into the want of cunning in the painter-lover, unable to know the heart of the enigmatic beloved.' . But the line does not simply collapse 'into the want of cunning' . The reason for this deviation most probably refers directly to the lines' contents and even may signify the meaning of the poem as a whole. As the line repetition reverses so does the sonnet or in other words its meaning.

J. Kerrigan illustrates that ''Sonnetto nono'' in 'Constable's Diana' bears remarkable similarities to Shakespeare's 24th sonnet. Sonnetto nono is from roughly the same time as Shakespeare's sonnets. In light of that information it is not unlikely that the concept of sonnet 24 has been written by one, or many authors making it more complex over time, building the sonnet up to the paradox that it has become. The message that the sonnet conveys is contradictory and difficult to understand. It seems unlikely that one person would have come up with its concepts without looking to others.

J. Kerrigan and H. Vendler appear to agree that the word perspective is used in an etymological sense, perspective deriving from the Latin word perspicere or per-spicio meaning look or see through. This is an interesting wordplay in combination with the notion of seeing you, through your eyes, inside of me which seems to be the concept Shakespeare is conveying in the poem. According to H. Vendler the painter's lover and the sun in the poem can both make use of the etymological see through as they 'peep' into the painters heart, but the painter 'cannot look through appearance to reality' as the painter has 'no capacity for perspective in its etymological sense of looking-through; his eyes draw but what they see, know not the heart.'. According to H. Vender the sun looks at his lover both outside and inside the painter, the lover sees himself inside his heart but no one sees the poor painter, he cannot see himself in his lover's heart nor does the



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