How might one interpret Shakespeare's Sonnet 137, "Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes,"?

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In Sonnet CXXXVII the amorous poet reflects with some mystification and some bitterness on his infatuation with a lady who, described in terms befitting a prostitute, falls far beneath the ideal woman of the romantic sonnet. Love, he opines, must have been a 'blind fool' to have led him to esteem one who, unflatteringly, he depicts as a piece of common land to which all men have access, a foul face touched up to look fair, and in the concluding couplet, a 'false plague' with the power to infect others at random. This sordid picture is a far cry from the Petrarchan ideal of the lofty and inaccessible beloved. In this sonnet as with many others, Shakespeare is pushing back the strict boundaries of the traditional Italian sonnet, creating a psychologically more realistic portrait of his lady, a portrait born perhaps out of disgust with a troubled romantic experience. 

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