Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Shakespeare viewed nature in terms of its benefits to human society. On its own, nature produces wild, unweeded, overgrown fields and woods that neither please the aesthetic sense nor feed a community as effectively as the gardens and crops produced by horticulture, by “art.” Nature, therefore, must be nurtured by human industry in order to be beneficial to society. In his poetry, too, Shakespeare’s images of nature do not focus on the natural environment in its own right, but have ulterior poetic motives that refer the reader to human experience.
In one of his last plays, The Tempest (1611), Shakespeare uses gardening and careful husbandry as metaphors for political and romantic relationships: Friendship and marriage are means of nurturing natural sexual desires into a morally productive relationship; charity, forgiveness, and restraint are means of nurturing desires for political power and possession into an ethical and productive political state. In this play, too, the reader sees noble characters who, because they are unwilling to restrain their greed for power, seem less noble than their social inferiors who “seek for grace.” These are the themes of Sonnet 94.
Nobility, as a political status, was passed through inheritance; its attendant personal virtues of honor, strength, and moral rectitude were, it was thought, genetic, passed through the blood. What Shakespeare suggests here is that true nobility is neither...
(The entire section is 338 words.)
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