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Shakespeare's Sonnets /

Appendix of Intertextual Material

Shakespeare’s Sonnets draw much of their power from literary works to which they allude and with which he could expect his readers to be familiar. This allusiveness makes the Sonnets part of a large poetic network and it gives both richness and density to their concise language. This appendix provides some of the passages to which the sonnets may allude, along with a cross-reference to one of the sonnets which may be read in light of the passage.

From Ovid’s Metamorphoses, trans. Arthur Golding (1567), book 15

(Line numbers correspond to the Golding translation. Spelling has been modernized.)

A. ll. 198–205 (Compare s. 60)

Things ebb and flow, and every shape is made to pass away.

The time itself continually is fleeting like a brook.

For neither brook nor lightsome time can tarry still. But look

As every wave drives other forth, and that that comes behind

Both thrusteth and is thrust itself. Even so the times by kind

Do fly and follow both at once, and evermore renew.

For that that was before is left, and straight there doth ensue

Another that was never erst.

B. ll. 206–7, 221–35 (Compare s. 73)

We see that after day comes night and darks the sky,

And after night the lightsome sun succeedeth orderly.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What? Seest thou not how that the year as representing plain

The age of man, departs [i.e., parts] itself in quarters four? First bain [supple]

And tender in the spring it is even like a sucking babe.

Then green and void of strength, and lush, and foggy is the blade,

And cheers the husbandman with hope. Then all things flourish gay.

The earth with flowers of sundry hue then seemeth for to play,

And virtue small or none to herbs there doth as yet belong.

The year from springtide passing forth to summer, waxeth strong,

Becometh like a lusty youth. For in our life throughout,

There is no time more plentiful, more lusty hot and stout.

Then followeth harvest when the heat of youth grows somewhat cold,

Ripe, mild, disposed mean betwixt a young man and an old,

And somewhat sprent [sprinkled] with greyish hair. Then ugly winter last

Like age steals on with trembling steps, all bald or overcast

With shirl [rough] thin hair as white as snow.

C. ll. 235–51 (Compare s. 60)

Our bodies also aye

Do alter still from time to time, and never stand at stay.

We shall not be the same we were today or yesterday.

The day hath been we were but seed and only hope of men,

And in our mother’s womb we had our dwelling place as then,

Dame Nature put to cunning hand and suffered not that we

Within our mother’s strained womb should aye distressed be,

But brought us out to air, and from our prison set us free.

The child newborn lies void of strength. Within a season, though

He waxing four-footed learns like savage beasts to go.

Then somewhat falt’ring, and as yet not firm of foot, he stands

By getting somewhat for to help his sinews in his hands.

From that time growing strong and swift, he passeth forth the space

Of youth, and also wearing out his middle age apace,

Through drooping age’s steepy path he runneth out his race.

This age doth undermine the strength of former years, and throws

It down.

D. ll. 287–95 (Compare s. 64)

Even so have places oftentimes exchanged their estate.

For I have seen it sea which was substantial ground alate [previously]

Again where sea was, I have seen the same become dry land,

And shells and scales of seafish far have lain from any strand,

And in the tops of mountains high old anchors have been found.

Deep valleys have by watershot [a sudden flood] been made of level ground,

And hills by force of gulling [erosion] oft have into sea been worn.

Hard gravel ground is sometime seen where marris [marsh] was before,

And that that erst did suffer drought becometh standing lakes.

E. ll. 984–95 (Compare s. 55)

Now have I brought a work to end which neither Jove’s fierce wrath,

Nor sword, nor fire, nor fretting age with all the force it hath

Are able to abolish quite. Let come that fatal hour

Which (saving of [i.e., except for] this brittle flesh) hath over me no power,

And at his pleasure make an end of mine uncertain time,

Yet shall the better part of me assured be to climb

Aloft above the starry sky. And all the world shall never

Be able for to quench my name. For look how far so ever

The Roman Empire by the right of conquest shall extend,

So far shall all folk read this work. And time without all end

(If poets as by prophecy about the truth may aim)

My life shall everlastingly be lengthened still by fame.

The parable of the talents, Matthew 25.14–30

(Geneva Bible; spelling has been modernized.) Compare s. 4.

14.  For the kingdom of heaven is as a man that going into a strange [i.e., foreign] country called his servants and delivered to them his goods.

15.  And unto one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every man after his own ability, and straightway went from home.

16.  Then he that had received the five talents went and occupied with them [i.e., put them out for interest, invested them], and gained other five talents.

17.  Likewise also he that received two, he also gained other two.

18.  But he that received that one went and digged it in the earth and hid his master’s money.

19.  But after a long season, the master of those servants came and reckoned [i.e., settled accounts] with them.

20.  Then came he that had received five talents and brought other five talents, saying, “Master, thou deliveredst unto me five talents; behold, I have gained with them other five talents.”

21.  Then his master said unto him, “It is well done, good servant and faithful. Thou hast been faithful in little, I will make thee ruler over much; enter in into thy master’s joy.”

22.  Also he that had received two talents came and said, “Master, thou deliveredst unto me two talents; behold, I have gained two other talents with them.”

23.  His master said unto him “It is well done, good servant and faithful. Thou hast been faithful in little, I will make thee ruler over much; enter in into thy master’s joy.”

24.  Then he which had received the one talent came and said, “Master, I knew that thou wast an hard [i.e., tightfisted, stingy] man which reapest where thou sowedst not, and gatherest where thou strawedst [i.e., strewed, scattered] not.

25.  “I was therefore afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth. Behold, thou hast thine own.”

26.  And his master answered, and said unto him, “Thou evil servant and slothful, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not and gather where I strawed not.

27.  “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers [i.e., money changers] and then at my coming should I have received mine own with vantage [i.e., profit].

28.  “Take, therefore, the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29.  “For unto every man that hath, it shall be given, and he shall have abundance; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away.

30.  “Cast therefore that unprofitable servant into utter darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Excerpts from Erasmus’s “Encomium Matrimonii,” in English translation from Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique (1553), fols. 21v–34v.

An Epistle to persuade a young gentleman to marriage, devised by Erasmus in the behalf of his friend.

Albeit you are wise enough of yourself through that singular wisdom of yours (most loving cousin) and little needs the advice of others, yet either for that old friendship which hath been betwixt us and continued with our age even from our cradles, or for such your great good turns showed at all times towards me, or else for that fast kindred and alliance which is betwixt us, I thought myself thus much to owe unto you if I would be such a one indeed as you ever have taken me, that is to say a man both friendly and thankful, to tell you freely whatsoever I judged to appertain either to the safeguard or worship of you or any of yours and willingly to warn you of the same. . . . I have felt often your advice in mine own affairs, and I have found it to be as fortunate unto me as it was friendly. Now if you will likewise in your own matters follow my counsel, I trust it shall so come to pass that neither I shall repent me for that I have given you counsel, nor yet you shall forthink yourself, that you have obeyed and followed mine advice. [fol. 21v]

[Erasmus tells of learning from a mutual friend that the young gentleman’s mother has died and his sister entered a convent.]

. . . [In] you only remaineth the hope of issue and maintenance of your stock, whereupon your friends with one consent have offered you in marriage a gentlewoman of a good house and much wealth, fair of body, very well brought up, and such a one as loveth you with all her heart. But you (either for your late sorrows which you have in fresh remembrance or else for religion sake) have so purposed to live a single life, that neither can you for love of your stock, neither for desire of issue, nor yet for any entreaty that your friends can make, either by praying or by weeping, be brought to change your mind. [fol. 22]

A. “Or who is he so fond will be the tomb / Of his self love, to stop posterity?” (s. 3.7–8)

What is more right or meet than to give that unto the posterity the which we have received of our ancestors? . . . What is more unthankful than to deny that unto younglings the which (if thou hadst not received of thine elders) thou couldst not have been the man living, able to have denied it unto them? [fol. 22v]

Now again be it that others deserve worthy praise that seek to live a virgin’s life, yet it must needs be a great fault in you. Others shall be thought to seek a pureness of life; you shall be counted a parricide or a murderer of your stock: that whereas you may by honest marriage increase your posterity, you suffer it to decay forever through your willful single life. . . . And now it mattereth nothing whether you kill or refuse to save that creature which you only might save and that with ease. [fol. 33v]

B. “Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse / The bounteous largess given thee to give?” (s. 4.5–6)

We do read that such as are in very deed chaste of their body and live a virgin’s life have been praised, but the single life was never praised of itself. Now again the law of Moses accurseth the barrenness of married folk, and we do read that some were excommunicated for the same purpose and banished from the altar. And wherefore, I pray you? Marry, sir, because that they, like unprofitable persons and living only to themselves, did not increase the world with any issue. . . . A city is like to fall in ruin, except there be watchmen to defend it with armor. But assured destruction must here needs follow except men through the benefit of marriage supply issue, the which through mortality do from time to time decay. [fols. 23v–24]

C. “Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone, / What acceptable audit canst thou leave?” (s. 4.11–12)

And the wise founders of all laws [i.e., the Romans] give good reason why such favor was showed to married folk. For what is more blessful than to live ever? Now whereas nature hath denied this, matrimony doth give it by a certain sleight so much as may be. Who doth not desire to be bruited and live through fame among men hereafter? Now there is no building of pillars, no erecting of arches, no blazing of arms, that doth more set forth a man’s name than doth the increase of children. [fols. 24v–25]

But what do we with these laws written? This is the law of nature, not written in the tables of brass but firmly printed in our minds, the which law, whosoever doth not obey, he is not worthy to be called a man, much less shall he be counted a citizen. For if to live well (as the Stoics wittily do dispute) is to follow the course of nature, what thing is so agreeing with nature as matrimony? For there is nothing so natural not only unto mankind but also unto all other living creatures as it is for every one of them to keep their own kind from decay and through increase of issue to make the whole kind immortal. The which thing, all men know, can never be done without wedlock and carnal copulation. It were a foul thing that brute beasts should obey the law of nature and men like giants should fight against nature, whose work if we would narrowly look upon, we shall perceive that in all things here upon earth, she would there should be a certain spice of marriage. [fol. 25v]

Hath not God so knit all things together with certain links that one ever seemeth to have need of another? What say you of the sky or firmament that is ever stirring with continual moving? Doth it not play the part of a husband while it puffeth up the earth, the mother of all things, and maketh it fruitful with casting seed (as a man would say) upon it? . . . And to what end are these things spoken? Marry, sir, because we might understand that through marriage, all things are, and do still continue, and without the same all things do decay and come to nought. . . . Thus we see plainly that such a one as hath no mind of marriage seemeth to be no man but rather a stone, an enemy to nature, a rebel to God himself, seeking through his own folly his last end and destruction. [fol. 26]

D. “For where is she so fair whose uneared womb / Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?” (s. 3.5–6)

Therefore as he is counted no good gardener, that being content with things present, doth diligently prune his old trees and hath no regard either to imp or graft young sets, because the selfsame orchard (though it be never so well trimmed) must needs decay in time, and all the trees die within few years, so he is not to be counted half a diligent citizen that being content with the present multitude hath no regard to increase the number. Therefore there is no one man that ever hath been counted a worthy citizen who hath not labored to get children, and sought to bring them up in godliness. [fols. 26v–27]

Now I pray you, if a man had land that waxed very fat and fertile and suffered the same for lack of manuring forever to wax barren, should he not, or were he not worthy to be punished by the laws, considering it is for the commonweal’s behoove, that every man should well and truly husband his own. If that man be punished who little heedeth the maintenance of his tillage, the which although it be never so well manured yet it yieldeth nothing else but wheat, barley, beans, and peas, what punishment is he worthy to suffer that refuseth to plow that land which being tilled yieldeth children? [fol. 29v]

E. “Who lets so fair a house fall to decay, / Which husbandry in honor might uphold . . . ?” (s. 13.9–10)

Now be it that others deserve great praise for their maidenhead, you notwithstanding cannot want great rebuke, seeing it lieth in your hands to keep that house from decay whereof you lineally descended and to continue still the name of your ancestors, who deserve most worthily to be known forever. . . . Will you suffer the hope of all your stock to decay, namely seeing there is none other of your name and stock but yourself alone to continue the posterity? [fol. 28v]

But whereas you . . . are like to have many children hereafter, seeing also you are a man of great lands and revenues by your ancestors, the house whereof you came being both right honorable and right ancient, so that you could not suffer it to perish without your great offense and great harm to the commonweal: again seeing you are of lusty years and very comely for your personage, . . . seeing also your friends desire you, your kinfolk weep to win you, . . . the ashes of your ancestors from their graves make hearty suit unto you, do you yet hold back, do you still mind to live a single life? [fols. 34–34v]

F. “When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear. . . .” (s. 13.8)

What a joy shall this be unto you when your most fair wife shall make you a father, in bringing forth a fair child unto you, where you shall have a pretty little boy running up and down your house, . . . such a one as shall call you dad, with his sweet lisping words. . . . You have them that shall comfort you in your latter days, that shall close up your eyes when God shall call you, that shall bury you and fulfill all things belonging to your funeral, by whom you shall seem to be new born. For so long as they shall live, you shall need never be thought dead yourself. The goods and lands that you have got go not to other heirs than to your own. So that unto such as have fulfilled all things that belong unto man’s life, death itself cannot seem bitter. Old age cometh upon us all, will we or nill we, and this way nature provided for us, that we should wax young again in our children. . . . For what man can be grieved that he is old when he seeth his own countenance which he had being a child to appear lively in his son? Death is ordained for all mankind, and yet by this means only nature by her providence mindeth unto us a certain immortality, while she increaseth one thing upon another even as a young graft buddeth out when the old tree is cut down. Neither can he seem to die that, when God calleth him, leaveth a young child behind him. [fol. 31]

G. “Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart, / Leaving thee living in posterity?” (s. 6.11–12)

How many doth the plague destroy, how many do the seas swallow, how many doth battle snatch up? For I will not speak of the daily dying that is in all places. Death taketh her flight everywhere round about, she runneth over them, she catcheth them up, she hasteneth as much as she can possible to destroy all mankind, and now do we so highly commend single life and eschew marriage? [fol. 33]

From Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander

(Compare s. 4)

                   Then treasure is abused

When misers keep it; being put to loan,

In time it will return us two for one.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Who builds a palace and rams up the gate,

Shall see it ruinous and desolate.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Less sins the poor rich man that starves himself

In heaping up a mass of drossy pelf,

Than such as you: his golden earth remains,

Which, after his decease, some other gains;

But this fair gem, sweet in the loss alone,

When you fleet hence, can be bequeathed to none.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One is no number; maids are nothing, then,

Without the sweet society of men.

Wilt thou live single still? One shalt thou be,

Though never-singling Hymen couple thee.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Base bullion for the stamp’s sake we allow;

Even so for men’s impression do we you[.]


Henry Constable,
“Sonnetto decissete”

(Compare s. 99)

My lady’s presence makes the roses red,

Because to see her lips they blush for shame.

The lily’s leaves, for envy, pale became,

And her white hands in them this envy bred.

The marigold abroad the leaves did spread,

Because the sun’s and her power is the same.

The violet of purple color came,

Dyed with the blood she made my heart to shed.

In brief, all flowers from her their virtue take:

From her sweet breath their sweet smells do proceed;

The living heat which her eyebeams do make

Warmeth the ground and quick’neth the seed.

  The rain, wherewith she watereth these flowers,

  Falls from mine eyes, which she dissolves in showers.