Why is line 9 the turning point in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 57”?

Line 9 of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 57” can be considered the turning point because the speaker implies they have negative feelings. Before then, they had claimed to accept waiting around to do whatever the lover wanted.

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In his “Sonnet 57,” William Shakespeare presents a speaker who seem totally subordinated to their lover. The sonnet uses a conceit, or an extended metaphor, of slavery as the speaker compares their relationship to that between a slave and a master. As the self-identified slave, the speaker offers numerous examples of their subordinate status and passive behavior. Line 9 brings a marked shift in the way they speak about their feelings.

Over and over, this lover states that they merely wait for their beloved to tell them what to do. The speaker uses an initial question, “What should I do?” This serves to prompt a series of responses that indicate their total acquiescence to the inequality in this relationship.

In various ways, the speaker says they have nothing better to do and all the time in the world to wait for the beloved to arrive and tell them what to do.

Using the same format as several previous lines, Line 9 begins with “nor.” In this instance, however, the speaker includes a negative thought about their beloved, while simultaneously denying the negativity.

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought

Where you may be.

In the remainder of the poem, the speaker includes more emotions that belie their apparently passive acceptance. Using a simile, they say that they feel “like a sad slave,” and contrast this emotion to the supposed happiness that the beloved brings to the other people with them. The last lines revert to the apparently passive acceptance, but at the same time acknowledge the speaker’s foolishness in such an attitude.

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