The Poetry and the Drama
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  • William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy details the logical
    structure of the philosophy in Shakespeare's 1609 Sonnets.

    Volume 1: Part 1; Nature & the sexual dynamic (40 book pages)

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearean Thought
    The Quaternary Institute
    Quaternary Institute & Quaternary Imprint



    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.


    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

           William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy (2005), is a four Volume slipcase set that presents the philosophy embedded by Shakespeare in his Sonnets of 1609.
           The four Volume set has been reissued in hardback and paperback editions (2018 to 2020) that are available individually through online publishing (see Quaternary Imprint).
           In addition, all 1760 pages of the four Volumes are now ready for viewing on the Quaternary Institute Website.

           VOLUME 1: The 560 pages of the first Volume explain Shakespeare's nature-based philosophy in detail, with Appendices and a Glossary that provide further analysis.
           VOLUME 2: The 372 pages of the second Volume provide commentaries on the 154 individual sonnets, and critiques the history of egregious emendations.
           VOLUME 3:The 488 pages of the third Volume selections provide commentaries on Shakespeare's four longer poems and five of the plays from the 1623 Folio.
           VOLUME 4: The 284 pages of the fourth Volume consider proto-quaternary thinkers and artists whose combined insights led to an understanding of Shakespeare's Sonnet philosophy, and then critiques ten thinkers who tried but failed to appreciate the nature-based Sonnet philosophy behind all thirty-six plays in the 1623 Folio.

    Nature and the sexual dynamic

    By 1609 Shakespeare had organised the Sonnets into a coherent set that articulated his philosophy. At some stage, in the years before 1609, he settled on 154 for the number of sonnets to represent the unity and complexity of nature, and sonnet 126 as the point to divide the set into sequences representing the female and the male.
            The decision was a significant one as it laid the logical foundation for his whole philosophy. Until the significance of structuring nature and female and male into a set of 154 sonnets with two internal sequences is grasped, it is not possible to appreciate the logical development of the philosophy in the Sonnets.
            Part 1, then, examines the relationship between the complete set of 154 sonnets and the division of the 154 into sequences of 126 and 28. It shows how the arrangement of these principal components establishes the logical foundation of Shakespeare’s philosophy.
            Once the logical foundation of the whole set and the two sequences is established in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 focus attention on the increase argument and the truth and beauty dynamic, before the role of the Poet is considered in Part 4.

    1.1    The significance of the 154 sonnets in the set

    The first impression made by the arrangement of the sonnets in Q, where sonnets regularly straddle the pages and there is little to indicate internal structure, is one of minimal order. Despite the initial perception, many of those who become familiar with the Sonnets are led to believe there is an intended coherence in the set or even a hidden philosophical structure.
            The history of critical interpretation, though, has not accounted for the persistent sense of order within disorder. Over time various editors have reworked the set in the belief that the original ordering was unauthorised. The consensus, though, is that the original arrangement has not been improved by reordering. This leaves open the question of the possible meaning of the set of 154 sonnets as a whole, and its relation to the internal groups and sequences in Q.
            The principal feature in Q, widely acknowledged, is the division at sonnet 126 between the first 126 sonnets addressed to a young man and the remaining 28 addressed to a mature woman. Sonnet 126, with its 12 lines and rhyming couplets, does have a unique form, and the double pair of brackets between 126 and 127 also indicates a significant division.
            Not surprisingly, then, it is at the level of the most obvious division of the Sonnets, between the 28 sonnets to a female and the 126 sonnets to a male, that the preponderance of commentary and interpretation has been directed. Volumes have been written on the relationship between the so-called ‘friend’, the ‘dark lady’ and the ‘speaker’ of the set.
            In contrast to the acceptance of the division at sonnet 126 other regularities or irregularities have proved a mystery to traditional interpretation. The two other sonnets with an irregular form (sonnet 99, with 15 lines, and sonnet 145, in octosyllables) are not given a structural significance in the traditional Sonnet literature. In many commentaries they are treated as corrupt or juvenile forms. However, their peculiarities are deliberate. Their function, though, is at a level subsidiary to the primary logical structure (see 5.5 and 5.6).
            There is also indecision in the literature over the number of so-called ‘marriage sonnets’ at the beginning of the set. There is no change of form early in the sequence, unlike sonnet 126 or the other irregular sonnets, that might provide a lead as to which sonnet concludes the group. Because the dynamic between increase and truth and beauty is not appreciated in the literature, neither the characterisation of the group as marriage sonnets, nor the guesses at their number is correct (see 2.3).
            And there is equivocation over the significance of the final two sonnets, 153, 154. The change in style at the end of the Sonnets, with the two sonnets in the mode of classical epigrams, has led some editors to dismiss them as unShakespearean. Their content and their positioning at the end of the set, though, identify them as a significant feature in the Sonnet logic (see 1.21).
            So, other than for an overly psychological interpretation of the division at sonnet 126, nothing of substance has been suggested for the internal features. More significantly nothing of substance has been advanced for the philosophic content of the whole set.

    I.2    The 154 sonnets as a unity

    Even though the division of the Sonnets at 126, allocating 126 sonnets to the male and 28 sonnets to the female, has drawn volumes of speculative comment, little attention has been paid to the possible meaning of the total number of sonnets. If the division into 126 and 28 has significance, in terms of a youth and a Mistress, then it is reasonable to expect the whole set of 154 sonnets would have a charge of meaning.
            It was not unusual for contemporary sonnet sequences to be numbered and for the total number to have some significance. Phillip Sidney’s sequence Astrophel and Stella recalls the 108 suitors to Odysseus’ wife Penelope. (Also see Spenser, Daniel and Drayton in the Glossary.)
            After the first sonnet in Q, every sonnet from 2 to 154 is numbered. If the process of mystic addition is applied to the number 154 it constitutes a unity.

    154 = 1+5+4=10 = 1+0 = 1

            Shakespeare’s intention to structure the natural logic of his philosophy into a set of sonnets the total number of which adds to a unity is evident in his choice of 154. Of the numbers after 100 that do add to a unity, only 145 is traditionally recognised as symbolically significant. In traditional number symbolism 145 is the regular form to unity for the three numerals.

    145 = 1+4+5 = 10 = 1+0 = 1

            As a unity, 154 is more complex than the ideal 100 and more inclusive than the linear arrangement of 145. It intensifies the numerological expectation with an expansion and a partial reversal of the regular 145 while retaining the relevant digits.
            Significantly, 154 is not as transparent in meaning as the idealistic unity out of the number 100 (100 = 1+0+0 = 1) used by Dante in the Divine Comedy. This suggests the complete set of Sonnets embodies an entity more comprehensive than Dante’s idealised divinity and more fundamental, in its structuring and ramifications, than Dante’s imaginary three-tiered hierarchy of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.
            Before considering the entity in the Sonnets that corresponds to 154, it should be mentioned that the number 145 has a particular significance in the set. The page-by-page arrangement of the sonnets in Q creates a distinction between the first 9 sonnets and the remaining 145. Sonnet 145 is of a different form from the rest and has the further distinction of punning on the name Anne Hathaway. These, and the use of the number 145 in the Dedication, indicate that 145 is the numbering for the Poet. Number 145 represents the Poet’s capacity to be cognizant of the unity and complexity implied in the number 154.

    1.3    The Sonnets, male or female

    When Dante structured the Divine Comedy to give a simple form to his imaginary view of the world, he used 100 cantos to characterise the divine unity of the Christian Godhead. He imagined a world in which absolute evil (the lowest reaches of hell), purgation, and absolute good (the male God) are separated resolutely by his division of the cantos into 3 equal sets of 33, after the introductory first.
            As a consequence, Dante’s world is one in which contradiction and opportunism abound. Dante elevates himself to heaven, his childhood sweetheart Beatrice to the left hand of God, Virgil the Roman poet can advance no further than purgatory, and Dante’s friends are, by gaining the last minute intervention of a priest at Dante’s behest, saved from the fires of hell.
            Ted Hughes, in Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, correctly recognises that the female element is prior to the male in Shakespeare’s poems and plays. He argues, on the basis of the dynamic in Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, for the ascendancy of the triple Goddess of antiquity over the idealisations and consequent contradictions associated with the youthful male God.
            Unfortunately, Hughes’ reading perpetuates the traditional blindness to the philosophic rigour of the Sonnets. This is because he decides from the outset to dissociate the ‘mythical’ from the ‘realism’ in Shakespeare’s works. He imagines the works are based on an ‘occult Neo-Platonist theophany’ with its unrealistic expectation of ‘rebirth into transcendence’ (p. 1). So, despite acknowledging the priority of the female in the Sonnet pantheon, his reading accommodates less than half of the plays, and for these it is less than adequate.
            Dante’s attempt to justify his belief in the priority of the male God of Christianity while elevating his reverence for the female as Beatrice, and Hughes’ acceptance of the priority of the female but under conditions of Platonic/Christian transcendence, show sympathy for the status of the female but they are still logically unsound. How then to reconcile the apologetics of Dante and the occult Neoplatonism of Hughes and construct a cosmology or a mythology that is both consistent and without prejudice? Shakespeare provides the answer in the Sonnets.

    1.4    Nature

    The first element in Shakespeare’s philosophy is the entity that is the ground for a logically consistent cosmology or mythology. The only entity mentioned in the Sonnets with the required universality is nature. Only nature fulfils the opposing criteria of unity and diversity consistent with the number 154.
            Nature (eponymously associated with Shakespeare and his poems and plays. See A. 2) is the ground from which he develops a consistent philosophy. The whole set of 154 sonnets represents nature as an entity that embodies both unity and diversity. The identification of nature with the 154 sonnets of the whole set establishes nature as the basis from which the differentiation of all the other entities grows.
            Nature is a more complex entity than that represented by the crystalline unity of Dante’s 100 cantos (with its consequently opportunistic moral system). Shakespeare’s 154, as feminine nature, fully encompasses and accounts for Dante’s masculinised Christian God (with its simpler numbering of 100) or any male God. In the Sonnets the idealised masculine God is located in the sequence to the youth. There the status of the ideal is given a thorough examination within the dynamic of truth and beauty.

    1.5    Nature, the sovereign mistress

    The identification of nature as the entity that characterises the complete set is made explicit in sonnet 126. In line 5, Nature is referred to as the ‘sovereign mistress’.

    Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)
                                        (Sonnet 126.5)
            The identification of Nature as the ‘sovereign mistress’ establishes its priority in relation to the other principal entities in the Sonnets. The identification of the sovereign mistress as Nature connects her explicitly with the Mistress as female, and the feminine aspect of the male expressed in the name Master Mistress. The sovereign mistress is prior to the Mistress of the Mistress sequence. The Mistress is the direct human representative of Nature, the sovereign mistress. In turn the Mistress is prior to the Master Mistress or the youth who represents the idealising male. The Poet, the other logical entity given a proper name, is the person who appreciates the logic of the relation between the sovereign mistress, the Mistress, and the Master Mistress, and is capable of giving it mythic expression.
            In Q the words ‘sovereign mistress’ are not capitalised because Nature is not a goddess or any form of supernatural entity. ‘She’ is the necessary precondition for consistency between the representations of the female and the male.
            From the biological standpoint the female is prior to the male. As the male is derived biologically from the female, then the state of existence before sexual differentiation is logically female. Consistent with the characterisation of the sequences representing the male and the female as Master Mistress and Mistress, Nature is characterised as the sovereign mistress. The whole set, in its undifferentiated or unified state, is characterised as female.
            Nature is represented as a type of ‘mistress’ in the Sonnets because the word Mistress is the generic term from which all forms of address to the female, Mrs, Miss, Ms, are derived. The word Mistress occurs most frequently in sonnets 127 to 154. Significantly, Mistress occurs in both 127 and 154, the first and last sonnets of the Mistress sequence that define the relation between beauty and truth. It also occurs twice in the Master Mistress sequence. Again significantly, it occurs in sonnet 20 as Master Mistress and in 126 as sovereign mistress. Sonnets 20 and 126 are the first and last of the large group in the Master Mistress sequence that specifically consider the implications of the truth and beauty dynamic.
            The idealistic Master Mistress or youth is subject to the audit of Nature, presaged in sonnet 4, and expressed unequivocally in sonnet 126.

    Yet fear her O thou minion of her pleasure,
    She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!
    Her Audit (though delayed) answered must be,
    And her Quietus is to render thee.

                                        (Sonnet 126.9-12)
            The critique of the ideal in the sonnets to the youth conforms with the priority of the female over the male. Because the youth must redress his relationship to the Mistress, the 126 sonnets to the youth are placed before the 28 sonnets to the Mistress in the layout of Q. They are situated logically in relation to the female of the 28 Mistress sonnets and consequently in the correct relationship to nature. This is consistent with Nature, the sovereign mistress, representing the whole set of 154 sonnets.

    1.6    Nature, unity and diversity

    Nature, the sovereign mistress, simultaneously incorporates the ideal and its antithesis. The number 154 combines the unity as well as the duality of nature. Nature’s encompassing of the ideal is expressed in the numerology.
            When the internal relationships in the Sonnets are examined, the female dimension will be associated with the numbers 1 and 2 (see 2.7). The 1 is the ideal and the 2 its counterpart or antithesis, characterised throughout the Sonnets as the thorn, canker, or shadow of the seemingly perfect Rose. Both the sovereign mistress and the Mistress are assigned these numbers. Nature and the Mistress represent the female dimension with the appropriate numerological multiplicity.

    1.7    Nature and the arrangement of the sonnets in Q

    Nature is presented in Q as a linear array of 154 sonnets that flows organically from page to page. The Sonnets intertwine from page to page like a vine. The organic arrangement from the first sonnet to sonnet 154 is captured pictorially in the two block images over the title page and above the first sonnet. The curvilinear figures give graphic expression to the natural basis for the sonnet organisation. Typically Shakespeare gives philosophic meaning to a clichéd image.
            The organic character of the image reinforces the intention to present the whole set of Sonnets as undivided Nature or the sovereign mistress. The two parts within the image indicate the way in which the division into two sequences is contiguous with the whole. This has its counterpart in the set by the change in form at sonnet 126, followed by a pair of brackets. The Mistress sequence does not begin on a new page after 126 because the continuity of the whole set has precedence over the parts.
            The double brackets not only indicate a break. Their playful eroticism has a reciprocal development in the erotic shape given to the whole sequence through the variation in form of 99 and 126 (with its brackets) and the identification of the 28 Mistress sonnets with the lunar number (see 5.7).

    1.8    Time in the Sonnets

    The only other entity that could be a candidate to represent the complete set, and occurs with any frequency, is ‘time’. But time is a calculated and singular entity that does not meet the criteria associated with the number 154. Time (the theme of sonnets 12 and 60) is given a subsidiary structuring in the set at a lower level than the structuring based on music (sonnets 8 and 128) (see 1.18). If there was any doubt, sonnet 126 makes it clear that time is an instrument of nature.

    She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
    May time disgrace, and wretched minute kill.
                                        (Sonnet 126.7-8)
            Also of significance is the fact the word time occurs only in the youth sonnets while nature occurs in both the youth and Mistress sequences.

    1.9    Summary

    The numerological determination of 154 as a unity corresponding to Nature, the sovereign mistress, provides the basis for a consistent reading of the philosophy evident in every aspect of the set. The total number of sonnets is significant. Any number more or less than 154 would not allow the correct multiplicity of connections to the other components of the philosophy. The 154 sonnets are the optimum number to enable a logical relation to the 145 of the Poet, the 28 of the Mistress, and the 126 of the Master Mistress. The precision of these relations is explored in the following pages.
            The identification of Nature, the sovereign mistress, with the whole set of 154 sonnets, is consistent with the structuring and numbering of the set. As this exposition unfolds the consequences of the identification will be evident as the various meanings of the sonnet elements fall naturally, and so logically, into place.

    1.10    The division into two sequences

    Parts 1.2 to 1.9 examined the unity of the whole set as nature. Parts 1.10 to 1.30 consider the consequences of the sexual division in nature, as represented by the internal division into two sequences.
            The two identifiably separate sequences, dedicated to the Mistress and to the Master Mistress or youth, acknowledge the basic sexual distinction between female and male. This is the primary function of the division at 126 into two sequences. The number of sonnets in each sequence is logically exact. The 28 and the 126 provide a numerological expression of the philosophic status of the two sexes. The logical relationship of the whole set as nature to the two sequences, characterised as female and male, identifies the critical function of sexual differentiation in the subsequent elaboration of the philosophy in the 14 increase sonnets and the 140 truth and beauty sonnets.
            The emergence of the Mistress and the youth from the 154 nature sonnets is the philosophic equivalent of the event celebrated in cosmologies and mythologies worldwide. It identifies nature as the cosmological constant and sexuality as the mythological constant. It points logically to the moment in the past when the line that leads to human beings was established with the possibility of sexual species in nature.
            The Sonnets, as an argument presented in poetry, establish the philosophic basis for mythic expression. In Shakespeare’s work the mythic expression does not take the guise of traditional mythologies with their pantheons of gods and goddesses. The Sonnets, as do the plays, go to the heart of the mythic and give it an exact philosophic expression.
            In the following commentary, subsidiary numerological patterns for music and time are derived. These come naturally out of the consideration of the sequences to the Mistress and the Master Mistress. By characterising the Mistress in terms of music and the Master Mistress in terms of time, Shakespeare gives an insight into their respective roles in the logic of the set. These subsidiary patterns should not distract from the logical structure established by the whole set as nature and the two sequences presenting the logical role of the female and male. The principal purpose of Part I is to establish the logical foundation of Shakespeare’s philosophy in terms of the nature and the sexual dynamic (Diag 15).

    Nature female/male Template

    DIAG 15: Nature female/male template

    1.11    The traditional names given the female and male

    It is first necessary to determine the most appropriate way to refer to the female and male entities.
            The traditional references in the Sonnet literature to a ‘dark lady’ and a ‘friend’ are based largely upon the tendency to view the whole set as an autobiographical tract. The so-called ‘dark lady’ is a euphemistic reference to a dark featured woman imagined to be Shakespeare’s mistress. While the Mistress’ eyes (sonnets 127 and 132) and hair (sonnet 130) are described as ‘black’, such a description of her physical appearance is used principally to characterise her personality, which is variously seen as fair or black. For Shakespeare, as will be shown in more detail later, beauty is chameleon like, black within fair and fair within black.
            Sonnet 147 has the only use of the word ‘dark’ in the sequence.

    For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
                                        (Sonnet 147.13-14)
            The Mistress’ appearance, though, is not at issue. The blackness of her ‘deeds’ is in question.

    In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds,
                                        (Sonnet 131.13)
            Sonnet 130 characterises the Mistress’ breasts as ‘dun’ and her hair as ‘black’.

    My Mistress' eyes are nothing like the Sun,
    Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
    I have seen Roses damasked, red and white,
    But no such Roses see I in her cheeks,
    And in some perfumes is there more delight,
    Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.
    I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
    That Music has a far more pleasing sound:
    I grant I never saw a goddess go,
    My Mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
        And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
        As any she belied with false compare.
                                        (Sonnet 130))
            These references are not sufficient to suggest the Mistress had a ‘dark’ complexion or that there this a ‘dark lady’ who was a secret lover. There are no grounds for replacement of the word ‘Mistress’, used so emphatically in this sonnet, as the name for the woman of the Sonnets. The use of the euphemistic term ‘dark lady’, with its connotations of immorality and mystery for some unknown woman, is unnecessary and inappropriate.
            The word ‘friend’ is used in both sequences in reference to the youth. But the word is used more generally as a form of address to all three protagonists. The Poet refers to the youth as ‘dear friend’ (30.13), ‘my friend’ (133.2), ‘sweet’st friend’ (133.4), and ‘fair friend’ (104.1). The Poet refers to himself as ‘thy friend’ (50.4), ‘thy true telling friend’ (82.12), and ‘an older friend’ (110.11). And in one instance the youth, the Mistress and the Poet are friends together, ‘being both from me both to each friend’ (144.11).
            ‘Dark lady’ and ‘friend’, as titles, are not adequate to convey the philosophic intent of the division into female and male sequences. The readings that use them tend to take little account of the status of the Poet, they misrepresent the role of the Alien Poet and give little or no account of the significance of nature.

    1.12     The female as Mistress

    The title of the woman in the Sonnets is ‘Mistress’. The abbreviations Mrs, Miss, Ms, all derive from Mistress, so the term is a universal one for womanhood. The traditional reference to the Mistress as the ‘dark lady’ distracts attention from the significance of the word Mistress in both the Mistress sonnets and those to the Master Mistress. It also distracts from the associated erotic references such as to the sexual organ in ‘my mistress’ eye’ of sonnet 153.
            The word Mistress occurs in the first of the Mistress sonnets.

    Therefore my Mistress' eyes are Raven black,
                                        Sonnet 127.9)
            And in the last.

    For men diseased, but I my Mistress' thrall,
                                        (Sonnet 154.12)
            This means that the 28 sonnets are parenthesised by the word Mistress. Mistress is mentioned a further three times in sonnet 130 and twice in sonnet 153. The only other two uses of the word Mistress occur in the sonnets to the youth. In sonnet 20, the first of the sonnets whose principal theme is the dynamic of truth and beauty, the youth is characterised as the ‘Master Mistress’.

    A Woman's face with nature's own hand painted,
    Hast thou the Master Mistress of my passion,
                                        (Sonnet 20.1-2)
            He is the Master Mistress or the male derived from the female or Mistress. All males have feminine features and characteristics, some more than others. This is a consequence of being derived from the female and is consistent with the biological priority of the female over the male. In keeping with this characterisation, the Mistress, particularly in sonnet 130, is described in quite unfeminine terms. This is to signify her capacity to engender the male and exhibit a masculine persona.
            The other mention of the word Mistress is as the epithet ‘sovereign mistress’ in the last sonnet of the Master Mistress sequence. The ‘sovereign mistress’ locates the Mistress as the human dimension of nature. Sonnet 20 begins the truth and beauty set with an appeal to the Master Mistress not to deny the source of his masculinity evident in his residual feminine legacy. Sonnet 126 ends the set with a final audit by Nature, the sovereign mistress, of the Master Mistress’ progress toward maturity or understanding of natural logic. So both sequences that articulate the dynamic of truth and beauty, 127 to 154 and 20 to 126, are parenthesised by the word Mistress. The parenthesising of sonnets 20 to 126 and sonnets 127 to 154 by the word Mistress locates their common theme of truth and beauty under the aegis of the female dynamic.
            Significantly, the word ‘Nature’ appears in sonnets 20 and 126, then in 127 but not 154. Sonnet 127 facilitates the transition from the Master Mistress sonnets to the Mistress sonnets by repeating the words, Mistress and Nature. Because the Mistress is at one with Nature, the word Nature does not occur again in the Mistress sonnets. The structural relations in the Sonnets are apparent only if the use of the word Mistress in the original is recognised and sustained.

    1.13    The male as Master Mistress or youth

    The young male is referred to as ‘friend’ about 10 times. Typically,

    But if the while I think on thee (dear friend)
                                        (Sonnet 30.13)
            But the Poet and Mistress are also referred to as ‘friend’.
    But being both from me both to each friend,
                                        (Sonnet 144.11)
            He is referred to twice as boy but in a tone of rebuke.
    Nothing, sweet boy, but yet like prayers divine,
                                        (Sonnet 108.5)
    O thou my lovely Boy who in thy power,
                                        (Sonnet 126.1)

            The two characteristics that most define the young male, though, are his status as an adolescent male and his potential for development toward the maturity achieved by the Poet.
            Though the young man is only addressed directly once as ‘youth’, his youth and youthfulness are frequently at issue throughout the set.

    And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
                                        (Sonnet 54.13)

            The name specifically given him by the Poet, though, is ‘Master Mistress’ from sonnet 20.

    ... the Master Mistress of my passion,
                                        (Sonnet 20.2)

            Master Mistress is the name that relates him logically to nature the sovereign mistress, the Mistress, and the Poet. Like sovereign mistress, the Master Mistress is mentioned only once. But, as will be shown, the positioning of Master Mistress at 20 and sovereign mistress at 126 is the key to their undoubted identification. (In all, the Mistress is mentioned seven times. By comparison the Poet is named six times: four times as the Poet of the set, and twice in conjunction with the Alien Poet.)
            Just as the sovereign mistress is synonymous with Nature and will be referred to as such when appropriate, this presentation will refer to the Master Mistress as the youth more often than not. It is a fitting way to characterise the young man both as a distinct individual and as a persona of the youthful characteristics of the Poet. Against ‘friend’ or ‘boy’, the word youth allows a direct allusion to the Poet’s youth. He is an aspect of the aged Poet’s inner life where the propensities of youth leave their marks on the mature person.

    These blenches gave my heart another youth,
                                        (Sonnet 110.7)

            The letters of the word ‘youth’ can be used to form the words ‘you’, ‘thy’ and ‘thou’. The Poet is aware of the implications in such lines as,

    Thou may’st call thine, when thou from youth convertest,
                                        (Sonnet 11.4)
    So long as youth and thou are of one date,
                                        (Sonnet 22.2)
    And chide thy beauty, and thy straying youth,
                                        (Sonnet 41.10)
    And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
                                        (Sonnet 54.13)

            The philosophic relationship between Nature, the sovereign mistress, the Mistress, and the Master Mistress is intentional and exact. They specify the logical connection between ‘mother nature’, the human female, and the human male. By introducing the notion of the Master Mistress as both a young male in the world and as an aspect of the Poet’s internal psychology Shakespeare is able in one movement to characterise the outer and inner worlds. Later it will be shown how the dynamic is encrypted into the Dedication (see 5.2).

    1.14    The 28 Mistress sonnets

    Having established names for the female and male entities consistent with the titles given them in the Sonnets it is now possible to proceed with an examination of the basic properties of the sexual division implicit in the sequences of 126 and 28. The Mistress sequence will be considered first.

    1.15    The 28 Mistress sonnets as a unity

    Although the Mistress sonnets (127 to 154) follow those to the Master Mistress (1 to 126) they are logically prior to them. They are thematically and numerologically more complete and self-sufficient. The priority of the female is evident in her numbering. By mystic addition the Mistress sonnets add to a unity.

    28 = 2+8 = 10 = 1+0 = 1

            This means that both nature (154) and the Mistress (28) are unities. The Mistress as the female is a unity in accord with the unity of nature. The different numbering of each unity (154 and 28) indicates its distinctive character. The Mistress also shares nature’s double numbering of 1 and 2.
            A symbolic reading of the number 28 for the Mistress identifies her with the lunar number 28 and so with the reproductive cycle of the female. The interconnection of the lunar orbit and the ovulation cycle clearly imply the Mistress is the human representative of the sovereign mistress, Nature.

    1.16    The priority of the Mistress over the Master Mistress

    The Mistress sonnets represent the female dynamic in a way consistent with its derivation from nature. The Master Mistress sonnets in turn represent the derivation of the male from the female. The Master Mistress precedes the Mistress in Q because, consistent with the argument of the increase sonnets, the male must maintain a logical impetus toward the female for the perpetuation of human life (Diag 16).

    Master Mistress dynamic

    DIAG 16: Master Mistress dynamic

            Before considering the structural features of the Mistress sequence, brief mention needs to be made of the status of the increase argument, and truth and beauty dynamic (Parts 2 and 3 of the logical template of the Sonnets) in the Mistress sequence. As this presentation proceeds it will become evident that the Mistress sequence has a greater structural integrity and thematic consistency than the sequence to the youth. Here, in Part 1, the main interest is to present some of the structural features that confirm the status of the female or Mistress in the Sonnet pantheon.
            The Mistress, as the female possibility logically derived from the sovereign mistress, is the point of origin of increase for human nature. She is the source of the male and so needs no increase argument as part of her sequence. Where increase is mentioned or alluded to in her sonnets it is presented as a matter of fact. In contrast, in the youth sonnets, increase is presented as a deliberate argument (sonnets 1 to 14) concerning the logical requirement to increase for the benefit of the youth as male.
            Just as there is no argument to purposefully instruct the Mistress in the significance of increase, the same is the case with beauty and truth. The Mistress, being prior to the male, is the source of the possibility of beauty and truth. Truth and beauty are conditional upon the possibility of increase between female and male (sonnet 14) so the logical status of beauty (127 to 137) and truth (137 to 152) is articulated precisely in the Mistress sequence.
            The logical relation of beauty and truth expressed precisely in the Mistress sequence is then presented to the male in the youth sequence after sonnet 14, as a corrective for youth’s persistent tendency to misunderstand the truth and beauty dynamic because of a distorted logic due to the influence of youthful idealism. When truth and beauty in the Sonnets is considered in Part 3, a full presentation of the dynamic will be given.

    1.17    The Mistress and the Poet

    The principal protagonists in the Mistress sequence are the Mistress and the Poet. The Poet is not called ‘Poet’ in the Mistress sequence. The word Poet occurs only in the youth sequence because the possibility of a Poet capable of writing at the mythic level is conditional upon complete maturity in the male or in the masculine side of the female. As in the youth sequence, though, there are numerous references to the Poet in the first person as I, my, mine, etc. Of the other named entities, Nature appears only in sonnet 127, while the youth warrants a mention in sonnets 133, 134, and 144, where the Poet relates to both the Master Mistress and Mistress.
            In light of the deliberateness of the Sonnet organisation, every sonnet in the Mistress sequence has a role to play in the meaning of the complete set. While most of the sonnets present the beauty and truth dynamic, in their midst are a number of less conventional sonnets. They are the ‘Will’ sonnets, 135 and 136, the sonnet in octosyllables, 145, and the classic epigrams at the end, 153 and 154. Their variance from the style and form of the standard Shakespearean sonnet has frequently caused them to be disparaged in the literature. But, along with sonnet 127, they are intentionally different and are sited at nodal points in the sequence.
            The underlying meaning of the 28 sonnets is given an overt structure by these odd sonnets. The beauty and truth dynamic in the Mistress sequence is woven around the sonnets that have a secondary structural role in the sequence. The unconventional sonnets also provide structural links to the patterning of the whole set and the youth sequence. Because the truth and beauty dynamic is discussed fully in Part 3, the principal concern here will be the role of the unconventional sonnets.
            In the Mistress sequence there are four sonnet numberings that add to unity by mystic addition. These are sonnets 127, 136, 145, and 154. They effectively divide the sequence into thirds (Diag 17).

    Division of the Mistress sequence

    DIAG 17: Division of the Mistress sequence

            or more fully,


            Sonnet 127 (1+2+7 = 10 = 1+0 = 1) begins the sequence by mentioning Nature and the Mistress, with a reference back to ‘Nature, the sovereign mistress’, in sonnet 126. The identification acknowledges Nature and the Mistress as the significant elements in the transition from sonnets 126 to 127.

    In the old age black was not counted fair,
    Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name:
    But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
    And Beauty slandered with a bastard shame,
    For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
    Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
    Sweet beauty hath no name no holy bower,
    But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
    Therefore my Mistress’ eyes are Raven black,
    Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,
    At such who not born fair no beauty lack,
    Slandering Creation with a false esteem,
        Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
        That every tongue says beauty should look so.
                                        (Sonnet 127)

            The significance of the last sonnet, 154, has already been alluded to. It mentions the Mistress by name, it adds numerologically to a unity signifying nature, and is one of a pair of sonnets in the style of classical epigrams. With sonnets 127 and 154 anchoring the beginning and end of the Mistress sequence the positioning of sonnets 136 and 145 needs to be accounted for.
            Sonnet 136 (1+3+6 = 10 = 1+0 = 1) is the second of the Will sonnets. As with sonnet 135 (1+3+5 = 9) it puns a number of times on the word Will. The significance of the Will in the two sonnets is emphasised by its being both capitalised and italicised 10 times in Q. In the two sonnets the word will is mentioned 19 times, 10 as Will and 9 as will in lower case. The presence of the 1 (10 = 1+0 = 1) and 9 echoes the numerological pattern in the primary structure. In the two sonnets, where Shakespeare puns extensively on his first name, the 1 derived from the 136 and the 9 derived from 135 contribute to their numerological significance.
            If sonnets 135 and 136 were composed late in the organisation of the whole set then these features, and the use of such words as ‘addition’, ‘nothing’, ‘one’, suggest an intent to encrypt into the Will sonnets two significant numbers from the structure of the whole set (see Appendix A. 4).
            The couplet of sonnet 136 makes the identification of the Poet with the name Will.

        Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
        And then thou lovest me for my name is Will.
                                        (Sonnet 136.13-14)

            The Poet identifies himself as William Shakespeare by means of a pun. This is significant because the Sonnets are not about William Shakespeare the man. Rather they transmute aspects of his life into a fully conceptualised and realised set of sonnets that, when taken together, have mythic depth.
            Sonnet 145, the other unitary sonnet, (1+4+5 = 10 = 1+0 = 1), also serves to identify the Poet. Its couplet makes a punning reference to William Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway.

        I hate, from hate away she threw,
        And saved my life saying not you.
                                        (Sonnet 145.13-14)

            As with the pun on Will, this pun has been recognised in the literature. There is a suggestion that Hathaway was pronounced Hateaway, and the ‘And’ of line 14 can be read with a silent ‘d’ to produce Anne. Again Anne Hathaway is not identified directly because the Sonnets are not about the personal lives of William and Anne. Their lives or aspects of their lives have been symbolically transformed into the mythic appreciation of the whole set. It will become clearer through this presentation that Anne Hathaway is the principal inspiration for the role of the Mistress.
            The Poet is located structurally in the Mistress sequence by being identified successively at the third and two third positions in the sequence of 28. Both of the numerological determinations, the unity of 136 and of 145, indicate the Poet is also a unity. Sonnets 135 and 136 connect him to the structural numbers 1 and 9 for his appreciation of the mythic conditions for poetic expression, and it is through the number 145 that he is associated with other aspects of the set.

    1.18    The structure for music

    While the numbering accounts for some of the distinctiveness of sonnets 136 and 145, a further sense of the structural significance of the positioning of the Will sonnets derives from the fact that sonnet 145 is in octosyllables. Not only does 145 have eight syllables per line, there are also a number of rhymes to the sound of ‘eight’.

    Those lips that Love’s own hand did make,
    Breathed forth that sound that said I hate,
    To me that languished for her sake:
    But when she saw my woeful state,
    Straight in her heart did mercy come,
    Chiding that tongue that ever sweet,
    Was used in giving gentle doom:
    And taught it thus anew to greet:
    I hate she altered with an end,
    That followed it as gentle day,
    Doth follow night who like a fiend
    From heaven to hell is flown away.
        I hate, from hate away she threw,
        And saved my life saying not you.
                                        (Sonnet 145)

            To appreciate the significance of the proliferation of 8s, it is necessary to consider sonnet 128, the music sonnet in the Mistress sequence, in relation to the only other sonnet devoted entirely to the theme of music in the whole set, sonnet 8 of the increase group. The significance of music in both sonnets is indicated by the double use of the word ‘music’ in the first line of each.
            In sonnet 8, the first line reads, ‘Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly’. Music, ‘the true concord of well tuned sounds’ (8.5), is said to resemble the relation of ‘sire, child, and happy mother’. This suggests the relationship of the Poet, youth and Mistress derives from the same source as music. Because the Mistress is prior to both the Poet and the youth then in an important sense the beauty of music derives logically from the Mistress. There is a suggestion of this in the allocation of 28 sonnets to the Mistress.
            In sonnet 128 the playing of a musical instrument is simultaneously expressed as an erotic interchange. The ‘music music’ of line 1 is played by the Mistress’ ‘sweet fingers’ upon the ‘blessed wood’ of the keys or ‘Jacks’, leaving the Poet’s ‘poor lips’ blushing at the ‘wood’s boldness’. In compensation the ‘Jacks’ get the fingers they need (‘their fingers’) and the Poet gets her ‘lips to kiss’. The instrument with keys in sonnet 128 and the stringed instrument in sonnet 8 are, significantly, the only instruments used as the theme throughout a sonnet in the set.
            At first sight the two music sonnets appear to be placed arbitrarily. No other sonnets are dedicated to the theme of music. The sonnets that precede and follow them make no reference to music. Their placement though is deliberate and relates to the significance of the number 8. The obvious implication of the musical theme of the two sonnets is that the 8 has a musical significance. And most obvious is the relation of 8 to the natural interval of the octave. This would seem to be simply the case with sonnet 8 and more complexly the case with sonnet 128. Sonnet 128 ends with the number 8, but is also composed of the significant numbers related to the Mistress: 1, 28, and 2 or 11 from 1+2+8 =11 = 1+1 = 2. The presence of the number 12 in sonnet 128 could also be a reference to the number 12 as a significant interval in music.
            Sonnet 128 is appropriately located after the first sonnet of the Mistress sequence, 127, where it sets the tone and structure of eights for the following sonnets. When the structure of eights is related back to the pattern of eights in sonnet 145 it becomes evident that the number 8 identifies the Mistress as the source of music in the sonnets. If the number of sonnets between the unitary sonnets in the Mistress sequence is counted they add to 8 (Diag 18).

    Music pattern in the Mistress sequence

    DIAG 18: Music pattern in the Mistress sequence

            The unitary sonnets are separated by an octave of 8 sonnets. The relation does not hold for these sonnets only. If the unitary sonnets in the youth sequence are noted then an exact division by 8 sonnets separates them all (Diag 19).

    Music pattern in the Master Mistress sequence

    DIAG 19: Music pattern in the Master Mistress sequence

            The pattern in the youth sonnets does not close with a unity. Sonnet 127 from the Mistress sequence provides the necessary continuity and indicates the youth’s dependence on the Mistress.
            The patterns of 8 can be related back to the structure of sonnet 145 with its 14 lines in octosyllables and the location of the music sonnets in relation to the number 8. The implication is that, for Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway as a woman, provided the ‘music’ or the underlying inspiration upon which he bases the articulate structure of the Sonnets. Shakespeare identifies himself as the Poet (Will) who articulates the inspiration into the profound philosophic ideas and structuring of the whole set. The by-play on numbering in 135 and 136 reinforces this contention (see 5.4).
            Shakespeare, as Poet, identifies himself (136) and his relationship to the Mistress (145) in the Mistress sonnets because that is the primary relationship in human terms in the whole set. The Poet, as the male dimension of human nature, is the mature form of the youth. By reconciling his relation with the female he has graduated to a status of unity with the Mistress. For her, the Poet’s unity is an affirmation that confirms her priority over the male, and provides a reflection on that priority, through the mature form of his poetry.

    1.19    Truth and beauty in the Mistress sequence

    In the sonnets to the youth, the Poet argues for the priority of increase as the basis for true understanding. He establishes for the youth the logical condition for deep and abiding love, corrects the youth’s misapprehensions about the source of inspiration for poetry, and realigns the youth’s sense of truth and beauty by challenging its overwrought idealism. He does all this with the purpose of maturing the youth’s appreciation of his logical relation to the female.
            The relationship between the Mistress and the Poet is even more uncompromising. The dynamic that prevails in the Mistress sequence is one of utter honesty and frankness, even about the deceits and pitfalls of a loving relationship. As a matured idealist the male Poet knows how easily unwarranted adulation can quickly become uncontrolled hate. Sonnet 127, establishes the tension between poetry’s ‘tongue’ and the Mistress’ black ‘eyes’.

    In the old age black was not counted fair,
    Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name
    But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
    And Beauty slandered with a bastard shame.
    For since each hand has put on Nature’s power,
    Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
    Sweet beauty hath no name no holy bower,
    But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
    Therefore my Mistress’ eyes are Raven black,
    Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,
    At such who not born fair no beauty lack,
    Slandering Creation with a false esteem,
        Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
        That every tongue says beauty should look so.
                                        (Sonnet 127)

            The Poet and the Mistress, out of the strength of their mutual understanding or achieved unity, face the dynamic of beauty and truth as it evolves moment by moment. He, through life experience, and she, through inherent disposition, refuse to delay their reckonings to an idealised time beyond death. They are aware of the illogical consequences of an over-dependence on the ideal.
            The deferment of judgment that happens in the idealism typified by Christianity takes a mortgage out against life. Sonnet 129 examines this cost by identifying the ‘waste of shame’, that comes from an ‘expence of Spirit’ (129.1), with the ideal as the ‘heaven that leads men to this hell’ (the word Spirit is capitalised in Q).

    Th’expence of Spirit in a waste of shame
    Is lust in action, and till action, lust
    Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody full of blame,
    Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
    Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight,
    Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
    Past reason hated as a swallowed bait,
    On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
    Made In pursuit and in possession so,
    Had, having, and in quest, to have extreme,
    A bliss in proof and proud and very woe,
    Before a joy proposed behind a dream,
        All this the world well knows yet none knows well,
        To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
                                        (Sonnet 129)

            Excessive idealism has dire consequences for earthbound beings. This is the ‘hell’ that Angelo encounters in Measure for Measure, as do Othello in Othello and Lear and Gloucester in King Lear, because of their inability to see the inevitable consequences of their over-idealised conceits. The Poet and the Mistress, at one as to the source of love and versed in the dynamic of increase and truth and beauty, face the reality of themselves and nature. They examine the range of emotions and moral dilemmas the Mistress embodies as the human representative of nature. Sonnet 130 captures this sense of abiding love, regardless of appearances.

    My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sun,
    Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
    I have seen Roses damasked, red and white,
    But no such Roses I see in her cheeks,
    And in some perfumes is there more delight,
    Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.
    I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
    That Music hath a far more pleasing sound:
    I grant I never saw a goddess go,
    My Mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
        And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
        As any she belied with false compare.
                                        (Sonnet 130)

            For the Poet, truth and beauty are inseparable because they derive logically and biologically from the foundation argument of the 14 increase sonnets out of nature. In the sonnets to the Mistress there is no increase argument because the female is the basis from which the male is derived and to which he returns. The Poet, as the male who has reconciled the male (Master Mistress) and the female (Mistress), experiences the full force of the unrelenting truth and beauty dynamic that is characteristic of the female as a direct derivation from the unrelieved contingencies of nature.
            So, as will be seen in Part 3 when the truth and beauty dynamic in the Mistress sequence is explored in detail, truth and beauty in the sonnets to the Mistress have a different aspect than that presented by the Poet in the sonnets to the youth. Sonnet 137 incorporates and defines beauty and then truth.

    Thou blind fool love, what dost thou to mine eyes,
    That they behold and see not what they see:
    They know what beauty is, see where it lies,
    Yet what the best is, take the worst to be.
    If eyes corrupt by over-partial looks,
    Be anchored in the bay where all men ride,
    Why of eyes’ falsehood hast thou forged hooks,
    Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied?
    Why should my heart think that a several plot,
    Which my heart knows the wide world’s commonplace?
    Or mine eyes seeing this, say this is not
    To put a fair truth upon so foul a face,
        In things right true my heart and eyes have erred,
        And to this false plague are they now transferred.
                                        (Sonnet 137)

            Beauty is a singular effect or sensation. In the Sonnets it is archetypically represented by the sensation of seeing. As a sensation beauty apprehends without articulate discrimination. It takes the ‘best’ for the ‘worst’ and the ‘worst’ for the ‘best’. As with ‘blind’ sight beauty does not allow of differentiation. It is the over partial world of sensation analogous to the singular resolution of sexual activity in ‘the bay where all men ride’. ‘Judgment’ occurs only when the eyes ‘seeing this’ say what should be said. Truth as ‘saying’ is consequent upon the sense of beauty as ‘seeing’. It is characterised by the process of ‘judgment’ as the division into ‘best’ and worst’, ‘say’ this is ‘not’, and ‘true’ and ‘false’.
            The eyes are the source of truth and beauty in the Sonnets because they provide the body with sight that enables the mind to say the truth. Just as sexual activity leads to the perpetuation of the human condition through increase, so when seeing is not blinded it leads to the capacity to judge what is true or false.

    1.20     The Poet and the Mistress

    The Poet, by his numbering and with his overview of the logical structure of the Sonnets, is the unity derived from the combination of the Master Mistress with the Mistress. For this reason, in the Mistress sonnets, the Poet also challenges the Mistress to take account of the qualities evident in the Master Mistress (sonnets 133, 134, and 144).
            The logical combination in the Poet of the Master Mistress and the Mistress (or the masculine and feminine personae) allows him to write poetry of exceptional clarity and purpose. In this regard his unity is greater than their combined unity. Sonnet 148 explores the consequences of the Mistress’ dependence on more intuitive or less exacting standards of judgment. The heightened sense of truth and beauty available to the Poet, because of his combination of the experiences of the male youth or Master Mistress and the Mistress, confronts her seemingly more arbitrary standards. His sense of judgment, based on a correspondence of true sight (or the correct relation between the eye and the cunt in sonnet 148), is asserted against her bewitchments.

    O me! what eyes hath love put in my head,
    Which have no correspondence with true sight,
    Or if they have, where is my judgment fled,
    That censures falsely what they see aright?
    If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote,
    What means the world to say it is not so?
    If it be not, then love doth well denote,
    Love’s eye is not so true as all men’s: no,
    How can it? O how can love’s eye be true,
    That is so vexed with watching and with tears?
    No marvel then though I mistake my view,
    The sun it self sees not, till heaven clears.
        O cunning love, with tears thou keep’st me blind,
        Lest eyes well seeing thy foul faults should find.
                                        (Sonnet 148)

            The eroticism evident in sonnets 137 (‘Be anchored in the bay where all men ride’) and 148 (‘O cunning love’) and other sonnets of the sequence, logically connects the image of the eyes as the source of truth and beauty with the ‘eye’ of the sexual organs. The perpetual relationship between the two possibilities shows the Poet’s determination to establish a place for each in his unified poetics. Editors have misunderstood the perpetual interplay between the mind and body to the point of emending the obvious expression of the erotically charged ‘my Mistress’ eye’ in sonnet 153 to ‘my Mistress’ eyes’.
            Sonnet 144 revisits the relationship of the Poet with the youth more directly than in other sonnets in the Mistress sequence. In it the Poet characterises the dynamic involved in the female/male relationship, both elements of which constitute the necessary components for abiding love.

    Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
    Which like two spirits do suggest me still,
    The better angel is a man right fair:
    The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.

    To win me soon to hell my female evil,
    Tempteth my better angel from my sight,
    And would corrupt my saint to be a devil:
    Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
    And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend,
    Suspect I may yet not directly tell,
    But being both from me both to each friend,
    I guess one angel in an other’s hell.
        Yet this shall I ne’er know but live in doubt,
        Till my bad angel fire my good one out.
                                        (Sonnet 144)

            The dynamic between the youth, or the Poet when he was a youth, (the better angel) and the relation he forges with the Mistress (the worser spirit) to become a mature Poet (when ‘my bad angel fire(s) my good one out’) creates the logical conditions for writing effective poetry.

    1.21    The last two sonnets

    The last two sonnets of the Mistress sequence are in the form of classical epigrams. They complete both the Mistress sequence and the whole set with an epigrammatic recapitulation of the underlying idea and form. The imagery of the two sonnets echo the shape of the whole set as well as providing a thematic and numerological relation to A Lover’s Complaint. As has been noted (Kerrigan, 1986), the two sonnets bridge the gap between the Sonnets and the Complaint. Traditionally the epigrammatic poems were a separate entity followed by a Complaint. Shakespeare has fused the epigrammatic element into the sequence of 154. The two sonnets with their 28 lines (2x14) echoes the number of Mistress sonnets.
            The classic style chosen by Shakespeare and adapted to sonnet form allows a direct expression of the eroticism that is central to an understanding of the poetic function of the Sonnets from sonnet 20 on. It is possible to imagine the two sonnets as surf washing up a beach under the tidal influence of the 28 Mistress sonnets. The other shore would be the peninsular, or ‘brand’ shaped island, of the 126 youth sonnets. The youth sonnets are altered subtly in form at sonnets 99 and 126 to suggest a decidedly erotic reading for the visual shape of the whole set (see 5.7). The possibility is implicit in the imagery of sonnet 153.

    Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep,
    A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,
    And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
    In a cold valley-fountain of that ground:
                                        (Sonnet 153.1-4)

            And sonnet 154,

    The little Love-god lying once asleep,
    Laid by his side his heart inflaming brand

    And so the General of hot desire,
    Was sleeping by a Virgin hand disarmed.
    This brand she quenched in a cool Well by,
                                        (Sonnet 154.1-9)

            The whole dynamic occurs under the aegis of Nature or the sovereign mistress. The ‘true’ Poet is the one who can reflect the dynamic in all its naturalness and sophistication.

    1.22     Summary

    In the Mistress sequence the female of the set has been identified as the Mistress who has a logical role in relation to Nature the sovereign mistress and the male as Master Mistress. The Mistress’ relation to the Poet has been established, as has her logical relation to increase and truth and beauty. The pervasiveness of the logical relationships in individual sonnets is explored more fully in Volume 2.
            Along with the last two sonnets, mention has been made of three other sonnets that play a part in the structure of the whole set of 154. Sonnet 145 particularly, the only sonnet with a markedly different form in the Mistress sequence, and sonnets 135 and 136, with their punning play on the word Will and their use of numerical imagery (addition, number, one, nothing, none), can readily be interpreted in terms of the total structure and dominant themes. Other significant structural relations will become apparent when the implication of the structuring of the sequence to the youth is considered.
            So far this Part has established the direct relation that exists between the Mistress and nature. Their mutual female characteristics and numbering identify the Mistress as derived from nature. The Poet is not only a mature form of the male in relationship with the Mistress, he also presents, through his capacity to express the understanding in the form of sonnets, the logical conditions for that understanding to be possible. The more masculine aspect of the Mistress is explored in the sonnets to the youth.
            In summary, Nature, the sovereign mistress, is a unity.

    154 = 1

            The Mistress, the female derivation from nature is also a unity.

    28 = 1

            They are distinguished by their respective numbers, 154 and 28. The 154 indicates the condition of nature as a unity in diversity, and the 28 reflects the lunar relationships evident in the human female.

    1.23     The 126 sonnets to the Master Mistress or youth

    The 126 Master Mistress sonnets are the final component of the three-way primary structural unit that determines the logical relationships for the set from 1 to 154. The 126 sonnets articulate the logical conditions for the male dimension represented by the Master Mistress. They complement the 28 sonnets of the female dimension represented by the Mistress. The Mistress and Master Mistress derive, in turn, from Nature, the sovereign mistress.
            At first sight there would seem to be a disparity between the number of sonnets allocated to the Mistress and those to the Master Mistress. If the Mistress is biologically prior, and hence logically prior to the Master Mistress, it might seem that she would be given a number of sonnets to equate with her status. While it is fitting she is allocated 28 sonnets to signify her relationship to the lunar cycle and the menstrual period, the fact she has little more than one fifth of the Sonnets would seem to place greater emphasis on the Master Mistress.
            If the Sonnets are considered autobiographically, as a love relationship between the youth, the Mistress, and the Poet, based on events in Shakespeare’s life, then the number of sonnets to the youth would seem to indicate a preference for the youth. But when the youth is seen as a male derived from the female or the Mistress, and the youth sonnets are seen as a statement of the distinction between the male and the female as well as a statement of the logical relation between the female and the male for human persistence, then the length of the argument presented to the youth can be assessed on logical grounds.
            In the Mistress sequence there is no need for an argument to convince her of the nature of biological necessity. She is inherently the locus for sexual persistence. Instead, an extended argument is required to ensure the youth, as a male, not only fulfils his potential, but also remains within the orbit of the female for reproductive purposes. The differentiation of the Master Mistress from the Mistress is the basis for the logic of saying, and so the basis for the extended argument of the 126 Master Mistress sonnets.

    1.24     The Master Mistress as less than unity

    Despite the greater number of sonnets associated with the Master Mistress, when the 126 sonnets are subjected to mystic addition, the youth is found to be numerically less than a unity:

    126 = 1+2+6 = 9

            The youth is numbered 9 because no other number could logically express the relationship between what he lacks and the unity that the Mistress inherently possesses. If the sum of his sonnets were 8 or 11, the logical relation between Nature, the sovereign mistress, the Mistress, and his status as the Master Mistress would be awry. The numbers 8 and 11 have been shown to be significant in the Sonnets, but they are not the number associated with the youth. The relation of the youth to the number 9 is pervasive throughout the Sonnets. This will become more evident as the commentary proceeds.
            For the Master Mistress to gain unity he must put himself in the correct logical relation to the Mistress. This is represented by the numerological combination of their individual numbers:

    9+1 = 10 = 1+0 = 1

            Because, biologically, the youth is derived from the female, and, in keeping with his designation as the Master Mistress or the masculine form of the Mistress, the male is but one tenth distinct from the female. He requires one tenth added to his nine tenths to become unified (see sonnet 38 for the relation of 9, 1 and 10). The equation is not strictly biological, but in its derivation from the biological, it is exact in its logical prescription.
            Nature, or the sovereign mistress, is a unity, and the Mistress (the human representative of nature) is a unity, because they are prior to the possibility of the male being a differentiated entity. The unities of nature and the Mistress contain within them the logical element of disjunction that gives rise to the male possibility. This is represented by the number 2, associated numerologically with both nature and the Mistress.

    1.25     The Master Mistress and the Poet

    In discussing the Mistress sequence, the role of the Poet was considered. The presence of the Poet was indicated principally by first person pronouns and secondarily by the identification of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway as punned identities in the structured relation of sonnets 136 and 145. In his relationship to the Mistress the Poet identifies her as the principal source of his inspiration for the whole set. The ‘music’ of the Sonnets was seen to derive from this relationship.
            The Poet is structured into the Master Mistress sequence in keeping with the nature of his relationship to the youth. Because the 126 sonnets are about the male dynamic it is important to remember that they are just as much about the Poet’s youth as about youth in general, or any particular youth in Shakespeare’s experience who may have led him to reflect deeply on the issues the sequence addresses.
            Shakespeare arranged the sonnets in Q to create a pattern where, after the first 9 sonnets, sonnet 10 begins at the top of the page (Fig 7) and then every twelfth sonnet tops the page until sonnet 154. This means there are 12 sets of 12 sonnets with the last sonnet occupying a page of its own.
            Although the word Poet occurs only in the youth sequence, as in the sequence to the Mistress, he refers to himself numerous times in the first person. Significantly, the first such reference in the youth sequence is in sonnet 10. There he appears as ‘I’, ‘my’, and ‘me’.

    O change thy thought, that I may change my mind,
    Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
    Be as thy presence is gracious and kind,
    Or to thy self at least kind hearted prove,
        Make thee an other self for love of me,
        That beauty still may live in thine or thee.
                                        (Sonnet 10.9-14)

            The introduction of the Poet at a structural point in the sequence provides a way of determining the number associated with him. If the first 9 sonnets are taken away from the 154, 145 remain.

    154-9 = 145

            The 145 links the Poet to sonnet 145, with its pun on Anne Hathaway.

    1.26     The Master Mistress and time

    The pattern of eights in sonnet 145 and the positioning of the first music sonnet, sonnet 8, identified the Mistress in terms of music. Sonnets 12 and sonnet 60, the two sonnets most identified with time, provide a similar key to the subsidiary structure for time out of the youth sequence.

    Sonnets from 8 to 12 in Q

    FIG 7: Sonnets 8 to 12 from Q

            If sonnet 8 stands in the first octave to indicate the progression of eights out of that octave, then sonnet 12 stands in a similar relation to sonnet 10 to indicate the progression of twelve’s out of the structural arrangement following sonnet 10. The 12 sets of 12 sonnets beginning at sonnet 10 and concluding at sonnet 153 create a regular pattern (Diag 20).

    Temporal Pattern

    DIAG 20: Temporal pattern based on 12

            The period of hours indicated by the 12 has resonance with the 12 hours of the liturgical day observed within the Church until middle of the twentieth century. Beginning at 6am and proceeding by threes (terc, 9.00am. sext, noon, and nones, 3.00pm) until 6.00pm, the day was divided into 12 hours. Other temporal references such as the 12 months of the year are possible.
            The specific mention of ‘the clock that tells the time’ in sonnet 12, indicates the progression of hours, while sonnet 60 makes specific mention of ‘minutes’. Sonnet 60 occurs in the fifth division after sonnet 12 (12x5 = 60) providing a connection between the two units of time. The number 60 also occurs in other contexts. Sonnet 11 mentions (for the purpose of the increase argument) a period of 60 years as the life span of the human being.

    If all were minded so, the times should cease,
    And threescore year would make the world away:
                                        (Sonnet 11.7-8)

            A possible cryptic reference occurs where the date of publication of Q, 1609, has the number 60 surrounded by the numerologically significant numbers 1 and 9. It identifies the Mistress and the youth and their relation to the Poet, and the Poet as Mr. W. H. (see 5.3.).
            The structures within the Sonnets related to music and time are subsidiary structures secondary to the principal structuring and numbering that characterises the philosophy of the whole set. The Poet relates to the Mistress as a representative of the female component of the Sonnet structuring. The characterisation of the Mistress in terms of music, and the association of the Poet with sonnet 145 and the pattern of eights, though, is consistent with his appreciation of her direct connection with nature.
            The Poet relates to the Master Mistress primarily as a representative of the male component of the Sonnet structuring. It is no coincidence, though, that he names himself (I, me, and my) in sonnet 10, and introduces the secondary structuring that initiates the time pattern into the youth sequence with the same sonnet. The Poet is introduced into the youth sequence in relation to the youth’s accountability in terms of time.
            The Master Mistress is characterised in terms of time because his differentiation from the Mistress carries with it the logic of saying or language. Whereas the interval of the octave is a naturally occurring relation in nature independent of language, time when measured in abstract intervals, as in the Sonnets, is a human construct. Minutes, hours, centuries, etc., are languagebased conventions. Shakespeare uses the logic of music and time, basic to the rhythm of verse, to highlight the possibility of truth and beauty out of the increase sonnets. In the youth sequence he demonstrates the logical relation between increase and truth and beauty as the foundation for all sensations and ideas, including music and time.

    1.27     Truth and beauty in the Master Mistress sequence

    The logical relation between nature (154), the Mistress (28) and the Master Mistress (126) leads directly to the increase sonnets and the truth and beauty dynamic. Just as increase is the logical consequence of sexual differentiation, so truth and beauty is the logical consequence of increase. The content of the Master Mistress sequence is determined by the consequences of the derivation of the male from the female both in its attitude to increase, and to truth and beauty.
            The argument of the increase sonnets, in encouraging the youth to face the logic of life, does not mention truth until sonnet 14. Because they are about sex as a physical process at the sensory level, and hence about beauty, only beauty is mentioned prior to sonnet 14. Once increase is logically positioned as prior to truth and beauty in sonnet 14 the remaining youth sonnets consider the implications of truth and beauty for the youth. To maintain focus on the primary role of truth and beauty in the logic of human understanding and expression, truth and beauty are considered together periodically throughout the sequence (see A. 1 for a list of occurrences).

    1.28     The audit of the Master Mistress

    The Poet is a unity (145 = 1) not because he is sexually a female, but because his understanding of the implications of the female/male dynamic and his ability to express the understanding correctly represents the relationship between the female and the male, or between the Mistress and the Master Mistress. As a Poet who expresses the understanding in a cultural form that is inherently erotic rather than sexual, the Poet’s particular unity incorporates the singular realisation of the nature of unity. He is aware of the criteria or conditions for unity.
            The Poet is at one with nature because he acknowledges the femaleness and the priority of nature. He is at one with the Mistress because he acknowledges her femaleness and priority even though, in keeping with her (and nature’s) dual numbering, the accord is a testy one. He is at odds with the Master Mistress because the youth, who can be seen as the neophytic stage of the Poet’s complete realisation or cultural development, has not yet come to that recognition. The youth, or the male dynamic, particularly the idealised male dynamic, will achieve unity only when the realisation dawns.
            The Sonnets argue that, if the youth never comes to the logical realisation, nature will visit upon him her final ‘audit’ regardless of his state of mind. The true nature of his idealism will be revealed when nature, through the agency of time, has the last word.

    Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
    What acceptable Audit can’st thou leave?
        Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
        Which used lives th’executor to be.
                                        (Sonnet 4.11-14)

    When as thy love hath cast his utmost sum,
    Called to that audit by advised respects,
                                        (Sonnet 49.3-4)

    If Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)
    As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,
    She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
    May time disgrace, and wretched minute kill.
    Yet fear her O thou minion of her pleasure,
    She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!
    Her Audit (though delayed) answered must be,
    And her Quietus is to render thee.
                                        (Sonnet 126.5-12)

            As suggested above, the youth is but one part in ten disaffected from the feminine dynamic. The youth’s mind requires reorientation. His body is already in accord with nature. This is the unity possessed by the Poet and is the lack of unity exhibited by the Alien Poet who represents the poetic aspiration typical of an immature youth.
            Because the female has the correct multiplicity with respect to nature it is the male, as the representative of the idealising aspect of the mind, who attracts the lengthier philosophic argument, presented in the first 126 sonnets. It is of the nature of the masculine aspect of the mind that it draws from the Poet a more persistent and telling argument.

    1.29     Summary

    As in the presentation of the basic aspects of the Mistress sequence this is not the place to consider the Master Mistress sonnets individually. The youth of the sequence has been identified as the Master Mistress. His relationship to the Poet and time has been established and the possibility of the final audit by Nature has been addressed.
            As a male, the youth or Master Mistress is derived from the female or Mistress, who in turn is derived from Nature or the sovereign mistress. The logical status of the Master Mistress is different though from that of the two female entities. As the male is logically a modified form of the female he lacks the unity inherent in the female. This is represented by the numerological distinction of nature, the Mistress, and the Master Mistress.
            Nature the sovereign mistress is a unity.

    154 = 1

            The Mistress is a unity.

    28 = 1

            But the Master Mistress is one short of unity.

    126 = 9

            The 126 sonnets to the Master Mistress, then, identify the youth as the logical complement to the female out of nature. Once it is appreciated that the youth sequence has a logical relation to the rest of the set before all else, then the purpose of the increase sonnets and the extended focus on truth and beauty follow.

    1.30     The Nature female/male template

    Part 1 started with the suggestion that the relationship between the whole set of 154 sonnets and the division into sequences of 126 and 28 was intentional. It should now be apparent that Shakespeare organised the principal components of the Sonnets to present the logical relationship between nature, and the sexual differentiation into female and male. The titles given to the principal components in the Sonnets are consistent with their functions as the logical entities, sovereign mistress, Mistress, and Master Mistress. As this arrangement and organisation is patently in the Sonnets as presented in Q, it is appropriate to expect that Shakespeare intended this to be the case.
            Part 1, then, has identified the basic elements in the structure of Q and considered their significance. The consistency of these realisations will be demonstrated when they are applied in Parts 2 and 3. They will show that the template of the basic tripartite relationship between nature, the Mistress and the Master Mistress is a profoundly logical device, essential for understanding and developing a consistent analysis of the rest of the Sonnets.
            The Poet was identified with the number 145 and his role in the Master Mistress and Mistress sequence was introduced at this stage in the process to help clarify the relationship between nature, the Mistress and the Master Mistress. The role of the Poet will be considered in greater detail in the section on the poetry and increase sonnets in Part 3 (see 3.5) and in his role as the mythic Poet in Part 4.
            On the evidence from the Sonnets, then, the logical relation between nature and the derivation from nature of female and male elements expresses the philosophic conditions necessary for a consistent cosmology. This stage of the process identifies and locates the logical elements in the sexual process. Qualities sufficient for the characterisation of a specifically human state of affairs will be considered in the following Parts.
            The template developed in this Part identifies the precondition for human sexuality. The template takes its form from the basic relationship of nature, female and male (Diag 21).

    Nature female/male Template

    DIAG 21: Nature female/male template

            In the terminology of the Sonnets the template reads (Diag 22):

    Nature template Sonnets

    DIAG 22: Nature female/male template (Sonnets)

            The Mistress relates directly to Nature the sovereign mistress because the female side of the sexual dynamic bears the strongest relationship to nature. This is expressed by the use of the word Mistress in both names and by their shared numerological status as complex unities.

    Nature template Numbers

    DIAG 23: Nature template (increase and Nature)

            The status of the Master Mistress will be dealt with in full in Part 3, but enough has been noted already to see that the argument of the Poet encourages the youth to accept his logical relation to the Mistress. The consequences for an unwilling youth can be represented by the addition to the template of a line representing a direct relationship to nature (Diag 23). This is the ‘rendering’ mentioned in sonnet 126 where Nature, through the agency of time (death), reclaims the youth at any rate. The logic of the increase argument is that if all humans took the option of returning direct to nature there would be an end to the human species in ‘threescore years’ (see 2.6).

    1.31     Conclusion

    The aim in Part 1 was to show that the whole set of Sonnets represents nature, and the division into two sequences represents the female as Mistress and the male as Master Mistress. Shakespeare establishes the priority of nature and the priority of the female over the male as the logical preconditions for articulating his philosophy within the set of 154 sonnets.
            The role of nature and the female and male in the Sonnets is consistent with the arrangement of the 154 sonnets in Q. Nature as 154 = 1 and the Mistress as 28 = 1 are unities, whereas the Master Mistress as 126 = 9 lacks unity. The Master Mistress’ numbering of 9 means he requires an extra 1 from the Mistress to attain a mature understanding. Like the Alien Poet, who also has the number 9, the male requires the unity of the female to reconnect to his natural processes. The Poet of the Sonnets has achieved unity with the Mistress and instructs the idealising Maste        r Mistress in natural logic.
            As the subsidiary patterns for music and time embrace the whole set they were considered in this Part. Music is specifically associated with the Mistress and time with the Master Mistress to further characterise the immediacy of their relationships to natural logic.
            In Part 2 the logical consequence of the sexual dynamic in nature is considered. It examines the increase argument of the first 14 sonnets to show the relation of human increase to the nature/sexual dynamic of Part 1. Then Part 3 shows how the logic of the mind, characterised as truth and beauty, is derived from the bodily dynamic of Parts 1 and 2.
            As the presentation continues it should become clearer that Shakespeare presents his consistent and comprehensive philosophy in the form of poetry to articulate the logical conditions for any mythic expression. It should become possible to appreciate why he chose to write his philosophy in the form of sonnets and why the Sonnets are considered the greatest love poems in English literature.

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    Contents and Introduction   +   Nature and the sexual dynamic   +   The increase argument
    Truth and beauty   +   The logic of myth   +   The cryptic numerology   +   Appendices   +   Glossary

    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005