Sonnet 91 Analysis

Forms and Devices (Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The poem’s form is that of a conventional Elizabethan sonnet. Each of its fourteen lines contains ten syllables. The poem consists of three distinct quatrains; the first two are complete sentences, and the third is directly linked to the concluding couplet. It begins with a series of images highlighted by the cadence which is produced by Shakespeare’s steady use of anaphora in the first quatrain.

The extensive repetition of “some” (seven times in four lines) stresses the idea which will be refuted by the following two quatrains and couplet. This technique strongly links the lines of the initial quatrain. When this link is broken in the second and third quatrains, the isolation of the narrator is raised to a peak that climaxes in the final couplet.

The anaphora also seems to debase those who are primarily interested in things other than love. This attitude produces a certain irony in the poem’s shift to the singular in the second and third quatrains, where an image of superiority is produced. The narrator, who seems to be deriding those who care so much for items and ideas which cannot reciprocate their affection, actually appears pompous by placing himself above the others.

This technique also produces an oxymoron which is as startling as it is ironic. Love should not be a wretched affair, yet the psychological realism of this emotion is often just that. Love does cause pain and concern as well as a feeling of...

(The entire section is 452 words.)