Beowulf

The strength of his rational mind is not diminishing the pains of his emotions. On the
contrary, the speaker is losing his sanity as time progresses. In the past, perhaps, the
speaker’s rational thought processes allowed him to cope with failed romances. However,
in the presence of this love for his dark mistress, all his logical mental abilities are
overpowered. His rational mind, which he depends on for truth and sanity, has left him in
the face of love. The torment of love has made it impossible for the speaker to make
truthful, objective observations about his world (“Companion to” 43). In this poem,
Shakespeare claims that it is love, not reason, that shapes one’s perception of the world,
for one’s mind, the ideal and rational judgment-maker, is subject to and overwhelmed by
the whims of emotion (“Companion to” 44). At the beginning of Sonnet 147, the speaker’s
love is described as a fever, but as the sonnet continues, the effects of love intensify.


Towards the end of the poem, love has completely overwhelmed his mind, inducing him to
become “frantic-mad (Line 10).” He continues, “My thoughts and my discourse as mad
men’s are, /At random from the truth vainly expressed (Lines 10 and 11).” The language
Shakespeare chooses further emphasizes the crazed effect love has had on the speaker’s
mind (Rowse, A Biography 72). The word “discourse”, for instance, derives from Latin,
meaning “to run about.” The use of this word creates a clear image of a mad man running
wild and uncontrolled. This love not only makes him go insane, it also blinds him from the
truth (Rowse, A Biography, 74). He says, “For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee
bright, /Who art as black as hell, as dark as night (Lines 13 and 14) .” The speaker’s
logical mind knows that his woman is evil, yet his love for her blinds him and he sees her
as beautiful.
Love, then, is, for Shakespeare, a force that operates within several different
contexts. As such, love has a multi-faceted definition, which yields to a multi-faceted
identity. Shakespeare defines love in three different ways.
First, love can be seen as an internal force fighting against other internal forces, as we see
in Sonnet 147, where the speaker’s inner turmoil stems from the battle of his love against
his reason within himself. Second, Shakespeare epics love as an internal force which
battles external forces, such as social pressures. Finally, Shakespeare portrays love on an
even larger scale, where Love is an external power that, independent of any individual,
struggles against and then defeats Time, another external entity (Booth 14). Clearly, if
love is an overwhelming, forceful entity that defeats time, death, social pressures, and
reason, then love is no longer simply an internalized emotion; it is also an externalized
power which can exist independent of human beings (Booth 22). Sonnet 147 deals with
love as an internal agony where there is no mention of outside forces at play. This is a
personal poem where Shakespeare uses the metaphor of disease and illness to represent
the obsessive love which has taken over his speaker’s senses (“The Works” 119) . The
speaker describes an internal battle where his mind is being devoured by his crazed
sickness, love. Both his love and his reason though, are internalized, sparring forces. In
contrast to poem 147, Sonnet 130 describes the experiences of a man’s struggle against
external, social factors, such as his culture’s romantic ideal for one’s beloved. Here, the
speaker’s love is an internal force which overcomes external factors, as the speaker uses
love as a justification for his adoring relationship with a woman (“The Works” 134). In
Sonnet 116, Shakespeare goes one step further, and depicts two external forces, Love and