Canker: In the Sonnets, the image of the Rose*, as the symbol of beauty*,
is associated with its canker, thorn, or ‘shadow’.
The singular beauty of the Rose in flower is used to characterise the
idealised beauty of the youth*. The logical complement of the ideal*, the
canker in the Rose, is used to characterise its negative or contrary underbelly.
The distinction between the Rose with its ‘hidden’ canker, and the
Rose with its exposed canker, captures the logical status of the ideal as an
intense sensation that temporarily obscures its logical antithesis. By associating
the Rose with the sensation of beauty and canker, Shakespeare is able
to show how sensations as singular effects lead logically to the possibility the
relation of ideas in the expression of a thought*. At one moment the singular
sensation of beauty is evident, at the next the previously hidden canker in
the Rose suggests the division of consciousness into the distinctions of
thought. The dynamic captures something of the perpetual process in the
mind*, back and forth between the two possibilities of understanding, sensations
and ideas or beauty and truth.
Christianity: Shakespeare* lived at a time when the illogical belief in the
priority of a male God over Nature* had led to another major schism in
Bible based beliefs, this time between Catholics and Protestants, and a consequent
increase in sectarian violence.
From perspective of Shakespeare’s Nature based philosophy, the contradictions
in male-based Christianity that led to the Reformation were typified
in England by Henry VIII’s conflict with Rome, and were exacerbated by
his divorce and even execution of some of his wives for the sake of male
primogeniture. When Henry’s Catholic daughter Mary took the throne,
after the death of his son Edward, the sectarian killing intensified. It was
not until the reign of Henry’s daughter by Anne Bullen, Elizabeth 1, that
a monarch was prepared to stem the sectarian violence by removing those
determined to restore England to the Papacy and attempting to reconcile
the two Churches within the State. As Shakespeare was born and matured
in the reign of Elizabeth, the contradiction* of opposing Christian faiths
both claiming the ear of the male God and the uneasy peace under a female
Queen may have influenced his enquiring mind toward the early development
of a consistent* Nature based philosophy. Although at least some
of his family was Catholic, his early grasp of natural logic and common sense
would have allowed him to develop a system of thought based on the
priority of the female over the male out of Nature. As a poet and playwright,
the realisation allowed him to restore consistency to the mythic* level of
expression distorted in the male-based Bible. The philosophy of the Sonnets
heightens the depth of understanding implicit in the Christian mythology
by avoiding the contradictions that have seen Christianity become little more
than recourse for psychological* comfort and a source of ideological
violence. It could be said that Shakespeare’s intent was to restore to the
believers in Christianity their birthright of a consistent philosophy by
showing that the erotic logic of all mythologies was derived from human
understanding within Nature.
Church: Throughout the Sonnets there are barely concealed references to
the inconsistencies and iniquities of the Church of Shakespeare’s day.
Shakespeare explores the issues even more explicitly in the plays such as
Henry VIII. He contrasts the simple faith of many of his characters with the
excesses (or ‘expense’, sonnet 129) that result when religions assume power
under illogical dogmas that prioritise a male God over the female and Nature.
Composition: The Sonnets, as published in Q in 1609, probably took form
over a period of 20 years.
The evidence available in the plays of the early 1590s, in the long poems
Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, and in the Phoenix and Turtle*
of 1601, suggests that by the late 1580s Shakespeare had already formulated
the basics of the philosophy articulated in the Sonnets of 1609. Venus and
Adonis uses the increase argument out of Nature, Love’s Labour’s Lost* and
Romeo and Juliet* incorporate sonnets that paraphrase crucial sonnets in Q
such as sonnet 14, and The Phoenix and the Turtle shows a sophisticated understanding
of Shakespeare’s sense of number, and of the relationship between
increase and the truth* and beauty* dynamic. The longer poems particularly
are early attempts to give expression to his Nature based philosophy.
The idea of incorporating the philosophy in a set of sonnets was probably
a response to the vogue in sonnet sequences that reached its pitch in the
mid-1590s. It is not difficult to imagine that Shakespeare systematically
structured his set over the next 15 years until he published the definitive
form in 1609. Internal evidence suggests that sonnets such as 20, 38, 76,
99, 101, 126, 135, 136, 145, 153, and 154, were reworked or added fresh
late in the process when the structuring and the numbering of the set was
determined. All the internal evidence, and the absence of evidence to prove
otherwise, point to Shakespeare’s definite and deliberate involvement in the
preparation of the set over the 15-year period and in the publication of the
complete set (with A Lover’s Complaint) in 1609.
Consistency: Because the philosophy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets exhibits the
correct logical multiplicity* between Nature* and the mind* it is a consistent
In the logical structure of the Sonnets, Nature and the sexual* dynamic
are logically prior to the dynamic of truth* and beauty* or the two modes
of understanding. By basing his philosophy in Nature and the sexual
dynamic, or the logical conditions for sexual persistence, Shakespeare is able
to characterise the dynamic of the mind as erotic* or non-sexual. The logical
functions of the mind are derived from the natural processes basic to human
existence. In one move Shakespeare presents a logical system in which the
dynamic of the mind has the same multiplicity as the physical dynamic
evident in Nature, and which accounts for the logic of eroticism that accompanies
the highest form of human expression, the mythic*. Traditional male-based
mythologies (Judaic, Christian, or Islamic) conceal their
inconsistencies, such as the prioritisation of the male over the female, behind
the strictures of faith and dogma. Such mythologies, with their covert
eroticism, have been an unchallenged given in the long history of Western
apologetics*. By showing that the logical conditions for life* are consistent
with any mythic expression, Shakespeare is able to derive the logical conditions
for consistent mythic expression. The level of consistency, in which
the logic of Nature and the mind is represented without contradiction*, is
unprecedented in philosophy. Shakespeare’s philosophy becomes the
standard by which to assess the inconsistencies of other systems of thought
such as Platonism* and Christianity*.
Content: The word content has a specific meaning in the Sonnets. Because
the content of Shakespeare’s philosophy presents the logical relation between
Nature and the human mind*, the Sonnets can express the content, but the
content is not conditional upon the continued existence of the Sonnets.
The content of the Sonnets, which present the logic of Nature*, necessarily
persists beyond the Poet’s expression of it in poetic form. The significance
of the word content is indicated by its appearance in the first sonnet.
In a play on the various meanings of the word, the Poet indicates the youth*
will only be content in his mind when the physical content of his body*,
or capacity for increase*, aligns his understanding with the logic of the larger
content of Nature. Because the Poet is at one with Nature, he suggests the
youth’s happiness lies in a willingness to see the logical relation between
Nature, increase, and the possibilities of the mind. The Poet expresses the
logical content of the world in his philosophic poetry. Understanding the
status of the Sonnet content is critical for an appreciation of the Poet’s
ambition for his verse*. For Shakespeare, poetry in the form of Sonnets is
the vehicle for the content. The possibility of content, with its logical
connection to Nature and increase, is not dependent on any particular
instance of the written word or book of verse. This follows from the
priority* of increase over truth and beauty in sonnet 14. Sonnet 55 makes
a clear distinction between the logical priority of what the Sonnet ‘contents’
say or convey, and the physical survival of the Sonnets as a book that might
immortalise the youth. The content of the Poet’s verse outlives marble and
monuments, and hence a mere book. Only the ‘living record’ of the youth’s
memory through increase has abiding value for the Poet. This understanding
of content is apparent in other sonnets, such as 74, where it is what the
poetry ‘contains’ that matters, not the traditional expectation of limited
immortality* through the memory of an individual being inscribed in a book
Contradiction: Shakespeare’s natural logic incorporates contradiction as
a function of the truth* dynamic or the logical dynamic of language.
Shakespeare revels in the contradictions generated by the truth dimension
of the truth and beauty* dynamic. By basing his philosophy in Nature* with
its associated sexual* dynamic, and the derivation of truth and beauty* from
the sexual dynamic, he appreciates that contradiction is a possibility inherent
in the logic of truth or language. Language involves the perpetual interplay
between right and wrong, true and false. Unlike idealists Shakespeare does
not seek to remove contradiction from language. He knows that attempts
to simplify language have illogical consequences. By acknowledging the
logical source of the possibility of contradiction in the sexual dynamic in
Nature, where contrary outcomes are legion, he uses contradiction without
compromising the dynamic of truth and beauty. In his plays, particularly,
he generates and exploits contradiction. His prolific creation of syntactically
challenging neologisms and his witty use of twins and cross-dressing are a
natural consequence of his appreciation that, without an acknowledgment
of its basis in natural logic, the idealisation of single words such as God leads
inevitably to contradiction.
Daniel, Samuel: When Shakespeare* published his Sonnets in 1609 the
height of fashion for sonnet sequences was past. Typical of such sequences
were Daniel’s 55 sonnets to Delia. Significantly, Daniel continued to rework
his sequence from the early 1590s until 1623.
The 55 sonnets, in the 1594 edition of Delia, add numerologically to a
unity (55 = 5+5 = 10 = 1+0 = 1). Shakespeare extended the topical idea
of a numbered sequence addressed to a female friend to create his numerologically
consistent set with its logical presentation of the female and male
dynamic out of Nature. Shakespeare most likely appreciated Daniel’s insistence
that the content of the poetry was pre-eminent over the poetry itself.
Shakespeare also lifts Daniel’s more romantic concerns to a mythic* level by
deepening the function of the imagery of the heart* and eyes* and other
symbolic features explored by Daniel.
Dark Nature: Nature*, incorporating such concepts as the universe or the
world, is the principal entity in Shakespeare’s philosophy. Nature is
bounteous, wise, fair, or good, etc., or cruel, black, evil, villainous, or base.
In the Sonnets and plays, the darker side of Nature balances out the tendency
to privilege the good in Nature.
Human beings are part of Nature and experience Nature at various times
in favourable or unfavourable terms. The notion of God*, as it has developed
over time, has become associated with the favourable or the good in Nature.
The contradiction of separating good from evil, or the darker side of Nature,
is inherent in the idea of a good God. Shakespeare avoids the contradiction
in this form of God with his acceptance of the priority of Nature over the
possibility of a concept of God. Nature embodies both the favourable and
unfavourable as perceived by the human being. Dark Nature characterises
those aspects of Nature perceived at any one time as being unfavourable to
human life. For the Poet, the Mistress* embodies both possibilities. Her
femaleness aligns her directly with Nature. In the Mistress the Poet faces
reality and his maturity. By contrast, the Master Mistress* tends to avoid the
darker side of Nature in favour of the idealised good. He will achieve
maturity only if he reconciles his youthful idealism with Nature and the
Darwin, Charles: Darwin restored the logical relation between human
beings and Nature by demonstrating the evolutionary relation of the human
being to other species and the rest of Nature.
In The Descent of Man Darwin addresses the logical requirement that
sexual selection is crucial for human persistence and human understanding.
He argues that the human mind with its ‘moral sense’ evolved from the
‘mental powers’ of other species. Darwin accomplished for the functions of
the body what Shakespeare had logically articulated for the body/mind
relationship 250 years before. Darwin, though, spent most of his life doing
empirical research, so only briefly addresses the logical consequences for
human understanding that Shakespeare articulates in the Sonnets.
Shakespeare’s logical comprehensiveness encompasses the empirical rigour
of Darwin’s approach.
Death: In Shakespeare’s philosophy death is an event in the continuum of
For any individual, the period from birth to death occurs in the
continuum of life. The conventional characterisation of an individual’s
period of existence as the time between ‘life and death’ leads to inconsistencies,
which arise if the period of any one human being’s existence, with
death being the supposed end of life, constitutes what is meant by ‘life’. In
the Sonnets, the youth has to come to terms with the logical possibilities.
Either he accepts the logic of increase, and so the possibility of the continuation
of his life through his offspring, or he accepts the re-assimilation of
his life at death into Nature*. The possibility of direct re-assimilation to
Nature without increase is ironically the type of immortality given priority
in Bible-based religions that consider increase an ‘original sin’ or make
celibacy or male priority a pre-condition for authority.
Dedication: Shakespeare arranged the Dedication of his Sonnets to provide
a cryptic representation of the principal numerological* relationships of the
While volumes have been written about the possible meaning of the
Dedication, no one has satisfactorily explained its wording. But Shakespeare
adapted a typical form of dedication from the period to suit his philosophic
ends. He arranged his Dedication to cryptically represent the Sonnet logic,
and indicated its deeper purpose by giving its surface a semblance of meaning
to distract biographical adventurers. This reading, which reveals the numerological
pattern for the Sonnets, shows that the 28 dots in the body of the
Dedication, the total number of letters (145), the initials T. T. (126), the
initials Mr. W. H.* (1 and 9), are arranged precisely to echo the structural
pattern of the whole set.
Doom: Significantly the word doom is introduced in the last line of the
increase* sonnets. If the youth* fails to increase then logically, when he dies,
truth* and beauty* will also die, or meet their ‘doom and date’.
The logic of the Sonnets is based on the relationship between the sexual*
possibility in Nature*, the increase dynamic, and the possibility of truth and
beauty. If the youth does not appreciate the logical significance of increase
in Nature, his understanding of truth and beauty remains inconsistent. His
understanding of the world and any attempt to give it expression would be
logically void, effectively rendering them as if dead. The logical meaning
given to the word doom by Shakespeare is distinct from the psychological
expectation of doom associated with the Christian Judgment Day. The ‘edge
of doom’ in sonnet 116, for instance, is not a reference to a Judgment Day.
It is the logical terminus of the options for the youth, whose inconsistent
appreciation of the function of increase needs to be corrected if his understanding
is not to remain in contradiction with Nature.
Drayton, Michael: Drayton first published his sonnet set in 1594. He
continued to revise it until 1621.
Drayton produced a numbered set of 63 sonnets. His set has the numerological
sum of 9 (63 = 6+3 = 9), which becomes a unity when the
unnumbered ‘sonnet to the reader’ is added. (9+1 = 10 = 1+0 = 1). His
numerological system is a very simple form of the logically exact numbering
Shakespeare uses in the Sonnets. A number of ideas employed by Drayton
appear in the Sonnets, where Shakespeare elevates them beyond mere
conceits to achieve a philosophic content*.
Duchamp, Marcel: The work of 20th century French artist Marcel
Duchamp demonstrates a mythic understanding of aesthetics* consistent
with Shakespeare’s understanding of the logic of aesthetics or beauty*.
Duchamp arrived at a consistent mythic* expression of the logical conditions
for art in his major work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors,Even.
All Duchamp’s work explores the singularity of sensations. He countered
the possibility of his artwork becoming an expression of taste by continually
reducing matters of choice to their sensory or aesthetic basis. He appreciated
that the aesthetic is logically any form of sensation whether derived
from the external senses or experienced as a sublime sensation of the mind.
As a deeply philosophic artist he was able to isolate the logical conditions
for consistent aesthetic expression. His insight into the logic of aesthetics
matches that of Shakespeare. But unlike Shakespeare, Duchamp does not
take account of the logical relationship of aesthetics and ethics*.
Throughout his life he showed a disinterest in ethics or the dynamic of
choice through language. Duchamp’s understanding of the logical relation
between the sexual* and the erotic*, though, is consistent with that of the
Sonnets. The erotic dynamic of his mythic expression, which is based on
the sexual as a given, gives priority to the female over the male. Like
Shakespeare, Duchamp demonstrates that the traditional priority accorded
to the male in belief systems based on traditional mythologies is contrary to
natural logic. A further consequence of Duchamp’s consistent aesthetics is
the precise numerological* relationship in The Bride Stripped Bare by Her
Bachelors, Even. The whole work represents the female as a unity, the Bride
of the top half is a unity, with 9 males or Bachelors in the lower half. The
numbering corresponds to the basic mythic numbering of the Sonnets.
Eliot T.S.: Eliot reckoned Shakespeare* had no moral system and at best a
That Eliot could be so wrong is attributable to his dependency on the
Christian paradigm, which is inconsistent and inadequate before the Sonnets
and plays of Shakespeare.
Emendations: Other than for a handful of genuine compositors’ errors,
the 50 or more changes of meaning introduced into editions of the Sonnets
by editors reflect their inability to understand the Sonnet philosophy.
The Reverend Edmund Malone* began the process of systematically
altering the meanings of words (not just spellings) in 1790 because, from
his Christian* perspective, the offending words appeared to have no effective
meaning in the original. Successive editors, who have also lacked an understanding
of the Sonnet philosophy, have reduced or augmented Malone’s
changes according to their fancy. The situation worsened in the late
twentieth century when over zealous scholarship contrived to find definitive
evidence to put the blame for the supposed mistakes on the innocent
compositors of the 1609 edition rather than address the inadequate understanding
of the editors. Because the perpetrators claim to be restoring
Shakespeare’s original meaning, their interference with the original amounts
to a literary injustice. The offending editors take no account of the inappropriateness
of applying their own systems of belief or expectations.
Erotics: Shakespeare draws a clear distinction between the sexual* and the
The sexual involves the bodily process of increase* as the biological union
of the female and male to produce offspring. The erotic involves desires or
any expression derived from the mind. Logically the erotic, on its own,
cannot produce a child. No amount of thought, expression, or human
artifact can produce a child. Duchamp characterises the whole of his output
as erotic because he appreciates the logical distinction between the sexual
and the erotic. Shakespeare’s Sonnets are divided into sexual (increase) and
erotic (truth* and beauty*) sequences by the poetry and increase group.
Eros: The Rose*, which occurs throughout the Sonnets, can be read as an
anagram for Eros, the God of love.
The word Eros corresponds to the idea of a thorn or canker* concealed
in the ideal beauty of the Rose. The possibility allows the Rose to be both
a conventional symbol of ideal beauty* and a symbol for erotic* desire. The
logical effect of the sexual dynamic on the mind is prior to the possibility
of ideal beauty generated in the mind.
Ethics: In the logical system of the Sonnets, ethics (or the truth* dynamic)
is any process of thought* involving words, or any expression of thought in
Any process of the mind* that creates a definitive distinction or difference
in language between two or more possibilities (for instance between the
possibilities of true and false) is an ethical process. The process of differentiation
is called truth, or ‘saying*’ in the Sonnets. Despite being defined traditionally
as the ultimate good or the perpetually true, ethics or truth as saying
cannot logically be a singular possibility. To say that truth is a singularity is
to confuse ethics with aesthetics* or beauty*. Truth and beauty are logically
distinct. Truth is the dynamic of judgment between right and wrong. The
dynamic of ethics and aesthetics is a perpetual process between ideas in
language and the experience of sensations. In the Sonnets, the Muse* characterises
truth. It is the entity associated with verbal expression through
language, poetry, argument, thought, etc. Science* as the assessment of the
correctness of a hypothesis uses language to gain knowledge and so is a form
of ethics. There cannot be a science of ethics, for instance, that investigates
the logic of ethics because the dynamic of truth or ethics is logically the
basis for scientific investigation. Effectively, in that case, the phrase ‘science
of ethics’ or ‘ethics of ethics’ is a tautology*.
Eyes: The eyes play a major role in the Sonnets. Half the Sonnets use one
or more words associated with the eyes, seeing*, or sight (see A. 8).
The eyes, as the organs of sight, are the principal source of sensation*
for the human mind. This is recognised by the characterisation of beauty*,
or the possibility of all sensations, as seeing. The other senses are mentioned
in the Sonnets (in 130, for instance) but, when the logic of beauty is
considered, the eyes, as the principal sense, are used to symbolise the rest.
In sonnet 14 the eyes are identified as the source of truth* and beauty.
Because they are biologically associated with the human possibility in
Nature* they displace any other source of divination, such as the stars. The
eye-to-eye contact between the Poet* and the Master Mistress*, and the Poet
and the Mistress*, enables the Poet to establish a path from eye to mind* to
heart*, and to the imaginary soul*. Because the Sonnets demonstrate the
logical relation between the body and mind through the increase* argument,
the imaginary soul is firmly located in human nature within Nature. To
complete the logical relationship, the eyes that light the mind have their
counterpart in the eyes of body, or the sexual* organs. The eye is referred
to as a sexual organ a number of times in the Sonnets. The path from the
eyes, through the mind, to the heart connects with the eye of the womb
and fertility. Because the function of the eyes has not been understood in
the traditional interpretation of the Sonnets, crucial words associated with
them have been emended.
Father: In the increase* sonnets the youth is specifically reminded of the
logical conditions of his birth.
IIt is a logical condition for human increase that the youth had a mother*
and a father. His derivation from his mother is considered in sonnet 3, and
from his father in sonnet 13.
Feminine: The division of the Sonnets into a female sequence and a male
sequence also recognises the division of any female or male into feminine
and masculine* personae*.
The feminine and masculine are erotic* characteristics of either the
female or the male. They appear as secondary sexual characteristics of the
body or as gender characteristics of the mind. The priority of the female
over the male establishes the logic of the relation between personae. The
priority of the female over the male, or the derivation of the male from the
female, creates the possibility of a multiplicity of feminine and masculine
types. A male can have feminine characteristics just as a female can have
masculine characteristics. A number of the sonnets are best understood in
terms of the relation between feminine and masculine personae. The cryptic
numerology* of the Dedication* encapsulates the interrelationship between
the female/male sexual dynamic and the consequent feminine/masculine
God: The word God occurs three times in the Sonnets (58, 110, and 154).
It is first used as an oath when ‘God’ is associated with slavery and pleasure,
then the youth is compared to a ‘God in love’, who then becomes the ‘Love-
God’ or Cupid in the final sonnet.
Attempts to represent the Sonnets as Christian, ignore the complete
absence of other idealised* personages and persons derived from the biblical
and Christian pantheon such as God as Father, God the Son, the Holy
Ghost, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, the Evangelists, or Saints.
In the Sonnets the singular sensation of the ideal or absolute occurs under
the aegis of Nature, the sovereign mistress*. The ideal, of which the male
God of the Bible is a heavily anthropomorphised instance, is fully critiqued
in the youth sequence. There the Poet addresses the youth’s excessive
idealism, which prevents the youth from achieving maturity. He can gain
maturity by acknowledging his logical relation to the female, or the
Mistress*. The prioritisation* of the idealised male in the form of a God by
religions such as Christianity keeps their philosophical development in a
perpetual state of adolescence.
Heart: The heart is at the centre of the logical relation between the eyes*
of sight and the ‘eyes’ of the sexual* organs.
The word heart first occurs in sonnet 20. There the eyes of the head
and the ‘prick’ of the groin, exert their influence on the heart. The trajectory
from the observer’s eyes, into the eyes of the person viewed, into the mind*
and to the heart and soul* (or the imagination) is met from the other
direction by the trajectory from the sexual* eye, up through the reproductive
organs to the heart, to its influence on the soul and mind. If the soul or
imagination is ‘amazed’by what it sees it can either lead the heart astray into
false fashions, or anchor it in the logic of the body dynamic. As the seat of
the emotions, and particularly love*, the heart is at the crossroads between
the natural process from eye to the eyes, and the fantasies generated by the
mind and its imaginary soul.
Heaven: Nearly half the 20 or so instances of the word heaven refer to
the skies above. When the word is used to refer to the spiritual realm it is
done with irony or with scant regard for religious niceties.
For Shakespeare heaven and hell* are potentially interchangeable. What
is one person’s heaven can be another person’s hell. The first appearance of
the word heaven, in sonnet 14, is explicit in dismissing the idea of receiving
judgment or knowledge from a celestial heaven of stars peopled by gods*
or goddesses. The consistent philosophy of the Sonnets finds truth and beauty
in the eyes of human beings because the idea of a heaven is merely a product
of the eyes’ mind* and its imaginary soul.
Hell: The word hell is used metaphorically in three youth* sonnets (58, 119,
and 120) and two of the Mistress* Sonnets (145, and 147). Two other Mistress
sonnets (129, and 144) envisage hell as a logical consequence of heaven*.
Hell and heaven are interchangeable because they are both extreme states
of mind that have no counterpart in reality. Traditionally hell is a concatenation
of many naturally occurring possibilities considered detrimental to
human well-being. Taken alone, any one of the instances is capable of being
experienced as either good or evil.
Hermeticism: The universal difficulty experienced in understanding
Shakespeare’s philosophy has led to speculation about his relation to hermetic
societies or practices.
In sonnet 14, Shakespeare rejects all forms of the hermetic or arcane from
his consistent and comprehensive understanding. Ted Hughes’* attempt to
understand the mythical* dimension of Shakespeare’s works suffers fatally
because of his expectation Shakespeare adhered to some form of occult
Neo-Platonist* ‘theophany’. Hughes’ characterisation of Nature as the
‘Goddess of Complete Being’, gives Shakespeare’s articulation of the logic
of Nature* an unintended association with mythological* pantheons of Gods
and Goddesses. In the Sonnets, Nature (the sovereign mistress*) is the basis
for the derivation of a consistent philosophy.
Hope: The philosophy of the Sonnets recognises two preconditions for the
possibility of hope. The first is the priority of the female over male, and the
second is the logic of increase*.
The philosophy of the Sonnets examines the contradictions that occur
when the erotic logic of mythologies is believed in literally. Many
mythologies position the male prior to the female and the mind prior to
the bodily logic of increase. When taken literally, the erotic logic of myth
generates an psychological hope for an imaginary world to compensate for
gap between male-based religious idealism* and the dynamic of natural logic.
The Master Mistress* sonnets are devoted to securing a judicial understanding
of the nature of hope for the youth*. Hope in the Sonnets is based
on the logic there would be no hope for humankind if there was no increase.
Only by accepting the two preconditions can the mind experience hope
consistent with the human potentiality in Nature.
Hour: The Sonnet philosophy recognises that the period of an hour is a
human construct. Like the minute* it is an arbitrary division of the day.
The system of hours structured into the Sonnets is based on the number
12. This is most likely in keeping with the 12 hours of the liturgical day of
the early Church, which measured time* from dawn to dusk. Sonnet 12 has
time as its theme (as does sonnet 60) and a pattern of twelve 12s is structured
into the Sonnets through the arrangement of the Sonnets from page to
page. Conventional agreement about the duration of the hour is acknowledged
by confining the temporal structure of 12s within the Sonnets from
sonnets 10 to 153. Significantly, the pattern is parenthesised by a group of
9 sonnets at the beginning and by 1 sonnet (154) at the end.
Hughes, Ted: In his Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being Hughes
presents a ‘dramatic equation’ that he bases on the mythological* figures of
Venus and Adonis and the legendary figures of Tarquin and Lucrece taken
from Shakespeare’s early poems.
Hughes’suggestion that Shakespeare’s system of understanding was based
in the female, or the ‘Mother Goddess’, conforms in principle with the
philosophy presented in the Sonnets. He also derives a ‘psycho-biological’
dynamic from the early poems and the Sonnets. But his decision, announced
in his introduction, to separate the ‘mythical*’ from the ‘realism’ in
Shakespeare’s works, leads to his ‘dramatic equation’ applying with conditions
to only 14 out of 38 plays. Hughes makes the mistake of using the
mythological characters from the early poems as an interpretative device for
the plays out of an expectation that occult Neo-Platonism* holds the answer
to the difficulties in appreciating Shakespeare’s ‘mythical’ depth. The plays,
though, are patently free of mythological characterisation and those that
have a mythological setting are distinctly critical of the genre. Hughes makes
the greater mistake of interpreting the Sonnets in the light of the characters
from the early poems. Because he absents ‘realism’ from his interpretation,
he conforms to the traditional Platonic/Christian* prejudice toward
individual sonnets. Like many traditional commentators he wrongly
considers the so-called Christian sonnets 116 and 129 as the key to the Sonnet
meaning. And, typically, he does not see the significance of the whole set
as Nature, the increase* argument, and the importance of the truth* and
Hyperbole: It is common practice among commentators to resort to
discussions of figures of speech when they fail to appreciate the significance
of an aspect of the Sonnets.
Blair Leishman, for instance, who shows he has no insight into the Sonnet
philosophy*, is reduced to characterising as hyperbole what seem to him to
be overstated conceits. The instances he disparages, when read correctly, are
exact expressions of Shakespeare’s consistent* philosophy.
Ideal: In the Sonnet philosophy* the possibility of the ideal derives from
the logical dynamic of the human mind within Nature*. The natural
dynamic of the human mind is the given within which the possibility of
the ideal functions.
In Nature, the possibility of experiencing the ideal is continually
countered by its antithesis in everyday reality. Shakespeare represents the
dynamic by having the female entities in the Sonnets, Nature, the sovereign
mistress*, and the Mistress*, exhibit both the ideal and its antithesis. Because
the female derives more directly from Nature, the Mistress exhibits both
possibilities. By contrast, the derivation of the male from the female generates
a being with secondary physiological and psychological characteristics and a
tendency to compensate for the lack of the complete dynamic of the Mistress.
One of the consequences of the deficiencies is a tendency of the male to
value the ideal at the expense of the real (Hughes*). The numbering of the
whole set and the two sub-sequences captures the logical status of each of the
protagonists exactly. As the representative male, the Master Mistress*, because
of his excessive idealistic trait, is unable without guidance to appreciate the
logical relation to the Mistress through the increase* process. The role of the
Poet* is to inculcate in the youth the logic of that relationship, a relationship
the Poet has previously come to understand and articulate in his philosophic
poetry. If the youth fails to appreciate the natural logic of his being, the
alternative is to be rendered at death* directly into Nature, rather than
perpetuated through increase. The logical critique of the ideal in the youth
sonnets is applicable to any idealistic system including the Platonic* and the
Christian*. By arguing that the youth will be no more than a rival (or
immature) poet, if he fails to mature his understanding, the Poet suggests that
any system of thought that prioritises the ideal in terms of the male remains
adolescent. Biblical and Platonic understandings prioritise the ideal male for
political and psychological reasons with illogical consequences when those
ideals are claimed to be the basis, or the origin, of the world.
Ideas: The Sonnets consider the relationship of ideas under the dynamic
The Sonnet logic distinguishes between beauty* and truth, or sensations*
and ideas. A sensation is any perception unmediated by thought* or speech,
whereas ideas are logically sayable. The process of saying* involves judgment*
between right and wrong. The judgments form the basis of sound
knowledge*. Sonnet 14 identifies the eyes* of the youth* as the source of
knowledge through the dynamic of truth and beauty. Because understanding
derives from the logic of increase*, with the eyes of the sexual* organs related
logically to the eyes of the face, the process of seeing* is deeply connected
with the process of understanding. Ideas are a logical consequence of the
sexual nature of human life*. They derive their potential from their logical
connection to the dynamic of the body*.
Immortality: There are three types of immortality available in the Sonnets.
Immortality occurs through increase*, through Nature*, and in a limited
sense through poetry.
Because humans are sexual* beings, and are logically required to increase
to persist from one generation to the next, immortality through increase
takes priority over any other form of immortality. It is only through increase
that humankind persists. The second form of immortality is an absorption
into Nature, the sovereign mistress*, without increase. This is the option
the youth* faces if he does not act on the logic of the increase argument.
The third form of immortality occurs when the image or description of a
person is recorded in a form of art*. This is the most limited form as it can
only capture aspects of a moment in the life* of an individual or group and
is subject, when written in a book, carved as a monument, or painted as a
picture, to the ravages of time*. It is also limited because only a small
percentage of human beings are so remembered. The immortality promised
in such books as the Bible* is a metaphorical possibility garnered from the
second and third forms.
Increase: The first 14 sonnets present the increase argument. They express
the logical entailment that without increase there would be no human
Increase in Nature is a consequence of the differentiation of organisms
into sexual types. The increase argument expresses the logical requirement
that the female and male reunite for the persistence of the species. The first
14 sonnets present the argument for the logic of increase. They do this
principally in terms of the condition for human persistence, but also prepare
the way for the influence of the sexual* dynamic on the operations of the
human mind*. The word increase is introduced in the first line of the first
sonnet and occurs again in sonnet 11, which presents the logical implications
of increase for human persistence. Sonnet 14, the last of the increase
sonnets, states that increase (‘store*’) is prior to truth* and beauty* or the
operations of the mind. Sonnets 15 to 19 provide an interlude in which the
logical relation between increase and the possibility of writing poetry
(sonnets) about truth and beauty are presented as pre-conditions for the
treatment of truth and beauty in sonnets 20 to 126 and its definitive
expression of beauty and truth in sonnets 127 to 152. It is not possible to
understand the Sonnets without acknowledging the implications of the
Intuition: Because the Sonnets present the logical relation between truth*
and beauty* with precision and consistency*, the Poet’s capacity for intuition
is fully complementary to his capacity for judgment* or knowledge*.
Beauty is logically any form of sensation*, whether from the external
senses or from the activities of the mind*. What is traditionally known as
intuition refers to a particular type of sensation arising from the activities of
the mind. The Poet’s knowledge arises from judgments as to the true or false
condition of any circumstance and his intuitions are the result of sensations
arising from the accumulation of knowledge in the mind. The logical
relation between truth and beauty maintained in the Sonnets ensures the
Poet’s knowledge and intuition operate at the same level.
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Roger Peters Copyright © 2005