Nor do I dare get angry at the tediously slow hours
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
While I watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
Nor do I dare think bitterly about your absence
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
When you have bid your slave (me) goodbye;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Nor dare I question with my jealous thoughts
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
Where you may be, or what you could be doing,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
But, like a sad slave I wait and think of nothing
Save, where you are how happy you make those.
But how happy the people must be around you.
So true a fool is love that in your will,
So loyal a fool is love that, in whatever your choice of action,
Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.
You may do anything you desire, and he [love] thinks no evil of you.
precious time (3) ] i.e., no time of any value but the time I spend serving you.
in your will (13) ] A play on the word 'will', stressed in the original manuscript as 'Will', for William Shakespeare himself.
In the previous sonnet, the poet expressed his deep concern over the potential of lust to destroy his relationship with the young man, and here it appears that his fears have become reality. The poet is now alone, kept waiting while his dear young friend is out having fun with others. Unwilling to feel anger towards his friend, the poet wallows in his own sadness, longing for the restoration of their relationship. However, in the final couplet we see that the poet understands completely the folly of his submissive behaviour, and his acceptance of love as a "fool" (13) is, in itself, proof that the poet is is reprimanding both his lover and himself. In fact, although this poem seems to illustrate the poet's disturbing reliance on his lover, one cannot overlook the possibility that the sonnet is highly ironical and filled with sarcasm rather than self-depreciation.
Actually, one could say that both voices are being heard in sonnet 57: "The friend is meant, I think, to take the poem first as an effusive and oh-so-sad compliment, and only later to do the double-take"; Did he really mean that? I don't suppose he was being sarcastic?' Precisely because the sonnet is equivocal its protest is the more effective. But, of course, the protest is largely qualified by the fact that what the poet says is quite literally true: he does hang about, watching the clock, waiting for the friend to come. Love has made him a 'sad slave', 'so true a fool'. There is in the poetry a kind of verbal shrugging of the shoulders and a rueful half-smile, especially in the couplet. It is the fact that the poet sees himself in these two ways at once that makes it possible and even essential to hear the two tones together throughout the poem" (Martin 73).
Lee, Sidney, Sir. A Life of Shakespeare. New York: Macmillan, 1916.
Martin, Philip. Shakespeare's Sonnets: Self, Love and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1972.
Ramsey, Paul. The Fickle Glass: A Study of Shakespeare's Sonnets. New York: AMS Press, 1979.
Shakespeare, William. The Sonnets. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Cambridge UP, 1996.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. A.L. Rowse. London: Macmillan, 1964.
How to Cite this Article
Mabillard, Amanda. An Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 56. Shakespeare Online. 2000. (day/month/year you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/56detail.html >.