INTRODUCTION & GLOSSARY A-B
Glossary of names and concepts
The Glossary provides another perspective or section through the philosophic
structure of the Sonnets. It complements the systematic presentation
of evidence and argument of Volume 1, and supplements the more detailed
examination of individual sonnets and the plays and longer poems in
Volumes 2 and 3. Each entry not so much defines the meaning of a word
but contextualises the word in the dynamic of the philosophy.
All the words in the Glossary occur in the main text. Because the text presents Shakespeare’s philosophy as evident in the 1609 edition there are a number of significant words whose meaning, when first encountered, may
cause difficulties. In some cases the use of a word might have changed since
Shakespeare’s day but mostly subsequent editing practices and misinterpretation
has distorted the intended meaning. Shakespeare was aware he was
articulating a consistent philosophy in opposition to the traditional views.
The entries reflect both his approach and his critique of less consistent views.
Note: Each word in the Table below is linked to the entry in the Glossary and each entry is linked back to the Table. Words in an entry marked with an asterisk* have separate entries in the Glossary. In each entry only the first appearance of each word is marked with an asterisk*.
Names and concepts in the Glossary
Absence: The theme of absence is principally a metaphor for the difference in maturity between the older Poet* and the Master Mistress* or youth*.
Absence occurs typically in sonnets 27/28 where the Poet is unable to
conjure up an image of the absent youth, and sonnets 51, 52 and 53 where
the Poet journeys away from the youth. The Poet visualises himself as being
separated in philosophic insight either from an immature youth, or from his
own youthfulness. Both readings are consistent with the philosophic intent
that any youth needs a logical component added to his understanding. The
missing component is available to the youth from the content of the
Mistress* sonnets. Her inherent unity provides the necessary reality to
balance the idealising tendency of youth. The traditional psychological
explanation, that the theme expresses Shakespeare’s personal feelings when
separated from a youth he loved in real life, is simplistic.
Academia: For 400 year’s academia has failed to determine the philosophic content* of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Because the failure is so universal for a writer as significant as Shakespeare it raises questions about the adequacy of the paradigm that has prevailed for at least 400 years.
While academics have written about everything peripheral or incidental to Shakespeare’s philosophy, they have been constrained from penetrating its centre by the consequences of 3000 or so years of apologetics*, or the
justification of idealised beliefs. The principal failing has been an unwillingness
to address the philosophical inconsistency when priority is given to
the male-based ideal (typified by the biblical God). From the time of the
Platonic* academy in Greece to the institution of the Christian* universities
in Bologna and Paris, centres of learning have been largely devoted to justifying
faith in a universal male ideal*. To the present day no philosopher or
artist has articulated a consistent response to apologetics. The reading
presented in these volumes suggests Shakespeare does so in the Sonnets,
where he presents the logical conditions for all mythic* expression, including
biblical mythology. He is the only thinker to demonstrate comprehensively
the inconsistencies of believing in such mythologies. In his plays he demonstrates
the way to achieve a consistent level of mythic expression by applying
the logic of mythic content. Until academia is prepared to acknowledge his
mythic* achievement it will fail to appreciate the philosophic ‘content’ of
Aesthetics: In the logic of the Sonnets, the aesthetic, or the mode of sensations*, is represented by the term beauty*.
Shakespeare uses beauty to refer to any form of sensation whether beautiful or disgusting (see Kant*). In sonnet 137 he criticises those who think they know what beauty is but still take the ‘worst’ for the ‘best’. Beauty
as sensation incorporates the five external senses or it can be the experience of
the ideal as a sensation of the mind*. Beauty does not categorise the various
sensations. All sensations or aesthetic effects are logically the same. Shakespeare’s
use of the word beauty is consistent with the Greek meaning of
aesthetic, understood as any sensation or perception unmediated by thought.
Shakespeare critiques the illogical use of the word when it is constrained to
represent only artistic effects or a preference for the good or sublime. He
argues that the logical use of the word avoids issues of taste or ‘false art’.
Because the process of seeing* is the archetypal sensory process, and because
seeing is used metaphorically for the process of understanding or knowing,
beauty is commonly associated with seeing. Beauty is symbolised throughout
the Sonnets by the image of the Rose*. The beauty of the Rose is used to
characterise immediate sensation. The beauty of the Rose, when contrasted
with its hidden canker* or thorns, doubles as an appropriate image to suggest
the logical relation of sensations to the dynamic of ideas, or ethics*.
Alchemy: Shakespeare’s philosophy is not allied to any form of alchemy, mysticism, or arcane thought. It is a natural philosophy that presents logical relationships.
In sonnet 14 the Poet* draws a clear distinction between those who look to the stars, fortune telling, predictions, etc., and his system of philosophy, which is based in the logical conditions for the persistence of life* and the possibility of mythic* expression. The only ‘stars’ he acknowledges as pivotal
for understanding are the ‘constant stars’ of the youth’s ‘eyes*’. In his use of
numerological relationships, Shakespeare removes the arcane element from
most traditional uses of numerology* to develop a structural system to serve
his philosophic purpose. He used astrological processes such as mystic
addition*, and symbolic numbers such as the lunar 28, to show the logical
relationships between the elements of his philosophy.
Anne Hathaway: Shakespeare recognised his lifelong partner Anne
Hathaway as the principal inspiration for the Mistress*of the Sonnets.
Despite the many theories about the identity of a euphemistic ‘dark lady’
from Shakespeare’s London experiences, only Anne Hathaway is alluded to
in the Sonnets. She appears in the form of a pun in sonnet 145 as ‘And’…
‘hate away’. The reference complements the punning play by Shakespeare
on his own name as ‘Will*’ in sonnets 135 and 136. Because Shakespeare
and Anne Hathaway were pregnant before they were married and because
the evidence points to a genuine and persistent relationship, it is logical that
she was the one who made the youthful Shakespeare acutely aware of the
increase* dynamic and of the inadequacies of excessive youthful idealism*.
In short, the older Anne Hathaway turned the impressionable youth into a
mature male. In the Sonnet dynamic the Poet learns the logic of beauty and
truth from the Mistress. Once it is recognised that the Mistress sonnets
present the logical dynamic of beauty and truth based in the priority of the
female over the male, which was reinforced for Shakespeare in his
relationship with Anne Hathaway, then the frequently voiced embarrassment
at their content* by writers from S. T. Coleridge to C. S. Lewis can be
dismissed as cant.
Apologetics: Apologetics is the philosophical justification using logical
processes, particularly Aristotelian syllogistics, usually in the defense of
Christian* beliefs and dogmas.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet philosophy* is the first philosophy to present a
complete critique of the contradictions in beliefs based on biblical
mythology and the apologists’ attempts to validate the inconsistencies. It is
also the first philosophy to present the logical conditions for a consistent
mythic* expression. Shakespeare wrote the Sonnet philosophy as the basis
for the mythic depth of his plays. The philosophical systems of major western
thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant*, Hegel,
Wittgenstein*, and those of most minor philosophers, do not question the
sexual/erotic illogicalities at the heart of Christian* mythology. Nor do the
critiques of Christianity or religious belief in general by thinkers such as
Hume, Locke, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, and others challenge the sexual/erotic
illogicalities in mythological beliefs. Much less do they re-establish the logical
conditions for mythic expression. The consistent* mythic philosophy of
Shakespeare’s Sonnets and plays demonstrates that all such thinkers are, in
some degree, apologists for the inconsistencies that arise when the contradictions
in Christian belief are given a semblance of rationality.
Argument: The Sonnets present a consistent argument for the logic of
human understanding in Nature. Generations of scholars and poets have not
recognised the force of argument in the Sonnets, and consequently have
misunderstood the longer poems and plays.
The word argument is mentioned a number of times in the Sonnets. The
argumentative intent is apparent in the pairs of sonnets joined by logical
connectives throughout the set. It is also apparent in the grouping of sonnets
to argue the case for pivotal ideas. The 14 increase* sonnets present a
coherent argument at the beginning of the set, sonnets 15 to 19 then present
the poetry and increase argument, the Mistress* sonnets systematically
present the beauty* and truth* dynamic, and the argument to the rival poets*
is presented in 9 sonnets at the half way point of the set. Shakespeare takes
advantage of the fourteen-line sonnet form, with its quatrains and couplet,
to generate precise argument. The sonnet form allows a simultaneous
expression of the philosophy through rational argument and poetic
metaphors. Accordingly, it allows an effective presentation of both truth and
beauty. The evident argumentative strain in the Sonnets has led some thinkers
to speculate on the possibility of a coherent philosophy* in the set, but they
have acknowledged their inability to understand it. In the main, though,
the Sonnets have been subjected to 400 years of disparagement and
corruption. Scholars have justified their interference in the wording and
organisation of the Sonnets by presuming Shakespeare was writing in
sympathy with the idealistic paradigms of Platonism* and Christianity*.
They have claimed to know Shakespeare’s thought from evidence beyond
that available in the works. Such presumptuousness would be reprehensible
in any other area of human endeavour. The philosophy of the Sonnets anticipates
the scholar’s incomprehension of its arguments by providing a critique
of the inadequacy of rival poets.
Aristotle: Shakespeare makes specific mention of Aristotle in Troilus and
Cressida and in The Taming of the Shrew.
The philosophy of the Sonnets is non-Platonic*. It is closer to the
philosophy of Aristotle, who based his understanding in the natural world.
Aristotle was constrained by the notion of idealised types, a problem
Shakespeare overcame by realising that the increase* principle is a logical
pre-condition for human understanding. In particular in sonnets 45 and 46
Shakespeare critiques Aristotle’s use of four elements, earth, water, fire, and
air, as the basis for understanding. Shakespeare takes Aristotle’s thought to
its logical conclusion by basing the Sonnet philosophy on the relation of
sexual* types to Nature*, and on the logical requirement that sexual types
increase*. In the Sonnets human understanding logically derives from the
sexual* possibility in Nature. Shakespeare further critiques the inconsistencies
in Aristotle’s writings by locating ethics and aesthetics (as truth and
beauty) within natural logic.
Art: Art features in the Sonnets in the generic sense, as well as in the form of
particular arts such as painting*, etching, monuments, buildings, and poetry.
The Poet* distinguishes between his understanding of aesthetics*, or
beauty* based on natural logic, and ‘false art’ based on idealist expectations.
Art based on unrealisable ideals leads to false art or the aesthetic of taste. In
the Sonnets the youth’s beauty is attributed to the natural processes of life.
Natural beauty is related logically to the possibility of increase*, and is subject
to the process of aging and death*. To immortalise the youth as an ideal
beauty in art, freed from the processes of life*, renders the notion of beauty,
and so art, false. If art depicts the youth as he looks when young it can only
capture or render a moment in his life cycle. Art cannot capture his natural
progress through life as it cannot be a substitute for the logic of increase in
Astronomy: In sonnet 14 the Poet considers he has ‘Astronomy’ (as in
astrology), but he is determined to distinguish his astronomy from that of
those who use the stars to tell fortunes or make predictions.
The Poet identifies the ‘eyes*’ as the logical or ‘constant stars’ for judgment*
and knowledge*. The eyes are the ‘constant stars’ from which to
determine the logic of truth* and beauty*. A direct appeal to the stars in the
heavens entails inconsistencies because it does not account for the unavoidable
presence of sexual/erotic dynamic in the logic of human understanding.
Audit: Audit is used three times in the Sonnets (4, 49, and 126). In each
case it means a judicial hearing of complaints or examination where the
youth is held to account for his attitude toward Nature. For Shakespeare it
is a logical ‘judgment’ (sonnet 55) that underlies the psychology of the
biblical Day of Judgment.
The definitive expression is given in sonnet 126, where the youth* is
brought to the audit of Nature*, the sovereign mistress*.The audit establishes
whether the youth has understood the Poet’s appeal to appreciate the
logical basis of love*. The possibility of love is conditional on the persistence
of humankind through increase*. Either the youth appreciates the increase
argument with its logical consequences for the dynamic of truth* and
beauty*, or he accepts a direct return to Nature at death without increase.
Time*, as the agency of Nature, will ‘render’ the youth if he does not
acknowledge the logic of his relationship to the Mistress*, and so his logical
relationship to Nature.
Autumn: The Poet uses the full round of seasons to symbolise the cycle
of life* from the increase* of Spring, to the flourish of Summer, to the
bounty of Autumn, and to decay in Winter, only for Spring to recur as life
The bounty of Autumn would not be possible without the process of
increase in Spring arising from apparent death* in Winter. It is the natural
cycle of which the youth*, as a human being, is a logical part.
Bacon, Francis: When the comprehensive philosophy of life* in the
Sonnets is compared with the limited scientific philosophy of Bacon, it is
apparent Shakespeare produced a general philosophic system that encompasses
Shakespeare does more decisively for Bacon what the general philosophy
of language of Wittgenstein did for the scientific, or empirical, philosophies
of Hertz and Mach. The consistent* and comprehensive philosophy evident
in the Sonnets, written by Shakespeare as the basis for all of his plays*, is so
superior to the more limited focus of Bacon that the suggestion Bacon (or
anyone else) wrote the plays is untenable
Beauty: In Shakespeare’s philosophy, beauty and truth* are the two modes
of understanding. They are equivalent to sensations* and ideas* or aesthetics*
and ethics*. Beauty is the aesthetic or any form of sensation.
In the philosophy of the Sonnets, Shakespeare derives the logic of the
beauty and truth dynamic from the structure of the whole set as Nature,
and from the increase* dynamic of the first 14 sonnets. The Poet gains his
consistent understanding of beauty from the Mistress in sonnets 127 to 137.
He uses the word beauty to characterise any form of perception or sensation
in the mind* unmediated by thought*. In sonnet 137 he talks of beauty as
‘seeing*’. He contrasts it with truth as ‘saying*’. The word beauty refers to
both common sensations from external causes and the intensified sensations
such as the ideal in the workings of the mind*. By defining beauty logically,
Shakespeare is able to use the word beauty with exactness. He dismisses what
is clichéd about the term and critiques the conditions that have led to its
use in characterising an arbitrary set of preferred sensations rather than all
possible sensations. He rejects psychological* criteria based on physical
attractiveness and artistic excellence. By identifying the logical conditions
for beauty in all sensation, the Sonnets preclude the illogical characterisation
of aesthetics as taste or as the science* of beauty.
Begetter: The Dedication* of the Sonnets characterises Mr. W. H.* as the
The numerology of the Sonnets identifies Mr. W. H. as William
Shakespeare* (see 5.3). The presence of the word ‘begetter’ in the Dedication
emphasises Shakespeare’s appreciation of the logical relation
between begetting as a function of the increase* dynamic and the begetting
or the writing of the Sonnets. The word ‘begetter’ points to the increase
argument in the first 14 sonnets as the logical precondition for the
truth and beauty dynamic of the remaining sonnets. The Poet is metaphorically
the begetter of the Sonnets who appreciates that the truth
and beauty dynamic derived from the increase process is the logical basis
for ‘begetting’any sonnet. The begetting of a sonnet is metaphorical because
no sonnet is capable of begetting a child.
Benson, John: The edition of sonnets produced by Benson in 1640
reordered the 1609 Sonnets and changed the youth into a young woman.
His lack of regard for the original suggests not many, if any, of Shakespeare’s
contemporaries appreciated its comprehensive philosophy.
There is ample indication in the records from Shakespeare’s day, including
prefaces and poems written by those who knew him personally (see A. 2),
that many were aware of his regard for Nature* and the philosophic distance
between his works and Neo-Platonism* and Christianity*, two of the more
influential schools of thought of his time. Yet, as demonstrated by 400 years
of commentary and interpretation, no one then or since has been fully
cognizant of the brilliant philosophy articulated in the Sonnets. Benson’s
edition begins a series of transgressions perpetrated in the name of good
taste, religion, and ignorance, and perpetuated by such figures as Malone*
in the 1790s, and continued with today.
Bible: The philosophy of the Sonnets critiques inconsistencies in the traditional
beliefs derived from biblical myths and dogmas.
The Sonnet philosophy presents the logical conditions for any mythic*
expression. It provides the basis for the mythic expression in Shakespeare’s
plays*. As is evident in the plays, Shakespeare incorporates without prejudice
many forms of religious expression. He is relentless, though, in his critique
of the limitations of the inconsistent mythological basis of those religious
systems. He is critical of attempts to justify the irrational basis of such
religious beliefs. Apologists* for the faith have used the tools of logic to argue
for an illogical system of understanding, but the inconsistencies in beliefs
based on biblical mythology are too fundamental to be rectified by the
processes of formal logic. The Sonnets correct the inadequacies of biblical
understanding. They prioritise Nature* over the ideal male God, they
correct the traditional belief in the priority* of the male over the female,
and restore the natural priority of the body* over the mind*. Consequently
Nature as the sovereign* mistress* and the female as Mistress* are logically
prior to the idealised male in the Sonnets. While there are many references
to biblical texts in the plays, and allusions to biblical concerns in the Sonnets,
there is no sense, as is claimed by so many unwilling to accept the evidence
of the works, in which Shakespeare was a Christian*, or even a Platonist*.
The word Bible is mentioned only once in the complete works and then
only irreverently as the ‘pible’. The Sonnet philosophy detailed in this volume
demonstrates Shakespeare was operating at a level above Platonist and
Body: In the Sonnet philosophy the body is prior to the mind*. The Sonnets
correct millennia of inconsistent belief that the mind is prior to the body
or is independent of the body.
By prioritising Nature* with its sexual* differentiation into female and
male, and by acknowledging the priority* of increase* or the sexual process
over the dynamic of truth* and beauty* for human understanding, the
Sonnets present the logical relationship between the body and the mind. The
logical relation between truth and beauty in the mind derives from the
increase dynamic of the body in Nature. In the increase argument of the
first 14 sonnets the body is the basis for the possibility of sensations*.
Appropriately only beauty occurs in the first 13 sonnets. Only at the end
of sonnet 14 is truth introduced alongside beauty in preparation for their
combined exposition in the remaining sonnets to the youth. Sonnets 20 to
154 present the truth and beauty dynamic, consistent with its derivation from
the increase dynamic. In sonnet 14 the image of the eyes* symbolises the
relation between the body and the mind. The logical connection between
the sexual ‘eyes’ of the body and the erotic* eyes of the mind allows for a
consistent expression of the relation between the sovereign mistress*, the
Mistress*, and the Master Mistress*, by the Poet. The logic derived from
bodily processes, or the increase argument, is the fulcrum in the relationship.
It is pivotal to the consistency of Shakespeare’s achievement in the Sonnets
Boy: The use of the word boy in three sonnets (108, 126, and 153)
identifies the male protagonist of the first 126 sonnets as an immature
The Master Mistress*, youth*, or friend (as he is otherwise called) is not,
as is commonly thought, the Poet’s superior. Rather he is a neophyte desperately
in need of a logical component for his understanding to give him the
maturity of the Poet.
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Roger Peters Copyright © 2005