By Dennis Abrams
The 1609 Quarto Version
TYr’d with all theſe for reſtfull death I cry,
As to behold deſert a begger borne,
And needie Nothing trimd in iollitie,
And pureſt faith vnhappily forſworne,
And gilded honor ſhamefully miplaſt,
And maiden vertue rudely ſtrumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully diſgrac’d,
And ſtrength by limping ſway diſabled,
And arte made tung-tide by authoritie,
And Folly (Doctor-like) controuling skill,
And ſimple-Truth miſcalde Simplicitie,
And captiue-good attending Captaine ill.
Tyr’d with all theſe,from theſe would I be gone;
Saue that to dye,I leaue my loue alone.
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And guilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly doctor-like controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
1. Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
Tired with all these = exhausted, wearied, disgusted with all these – then follows the list of social evils with which he is tired. Possibly with a suggestion of attired with, in the sense that the evils cling to him like clothing, and he cannot divest himself of them.
2. As to behold desert a beggar born,
As = as, for example, all these following.
desert = a deserving person, a worthwhile person. In each succeeding line either praiseworthy or degenerate qualities are personified. Thus needy nothing, purest faith, gilded honour, maiden virtue, right perfection etc. all refer to the person or persons endowed with such characteristics.
a beggar born = born into poverty.
3. And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
needy nothing = a nonentity who is needy because he is lacking in all good qualities. At first glance it appears that the phrase suggests the opposite of that intended, for being in a list of socially desirable types whom society has downtrodden, one automatically accepts it as being of the correct type to fit the general flow of the poem i.e. one of the better and praiseworthy examples. Further consideration shows that this is not so, and needy nothing turns out to be one of the nasties who has managed to get himself kitted out in the latest fashion, no doubt at the expense of desert in the line above .
trimm’d in jollity = (undeservingly) done up in frivolous and expensive clothes and ornaments.
4. And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
purest faith = one who exhibits trust and trustworthiness; one who is pure in heart.
unhappily = through evil fortune, unluckily; wretchedly.
forsworn = tricked by false promises, betrayed.
5. And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
As in line 3, gilded honour is not an example of virtue ill-treated, but of unworthiness well rewarded. Gilded honour stands for the pomp and paraphernalia of office and authority, the gold regalia of office, but here it is misplaced, because it has been bestowed on those who are not fit to receive it.
6. And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
maiden virtue = unblemished virtue; an innocent maiden.
rudely strumpeted = forced to become a whore, proclaimed a whore. Figuratively, virtue is forced into evil ways. The resemblance of the word strumpet to trumpet hints at the possibility of public shaming of the innocent.
7. And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
right perfection = genuine, honest perfection.
wrongfully = sinfully, evilly, unjustly.
8. And strength by limping sway disabled
strength = the strength of knowing the right course of action.
limping sway = influence, which is typified by a crippled, shuffling figure working behind the scenes. The irony is that strength, which is hale and hearty, is disabled by influence and corruption, which is limping and crippled, but nevertheless manages to make strength like himself. KDJ sees a possible reference to the authority of the ageing Elizabeth in restricting the activities of young male courtiers, for example the Earl of Essex in 1600/01. But it is unlikely that Shakespeare would have needed to look to the very top of society for examples of young talent and enterprise suppressed by the aged and infirm. Youth in any age can feel itself repressed by precedent, tradition, and the influence and authority of those already in power. In Elizabethan England, being of the right family and having contacts with those who could pull strings was vital for success, and many talented youths must have discovered that their prospects were severly blighted by the conventions of the times and the limited prospects for advancement.
9. And art made tongue-tied by authority,
art = skill, knowledge. A person who possesses these. The word was less often applied to what we would call the creative arts.
authority = a person in authority. SB mentions that this could refer to censorship, which did operate in Elizabethan times, albeit rather erratically.
10. And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
folly = stupidity, ignorance.
doctor-like – as an academic doctor; pretending to be learned. Skill is used by Shakespeare of the physician’s art also, so the reference could here be to a doctor of medicine.
………There’s something in’t,
More than my father’s skill, which was the greatest
Of his profession AWW.I.3.233-5
Sir, I will use
My utmost skill in his recovery, Per.V.1.73-4.
controlling = restraining, exercising authority over, restricting, hampering. skill – used in a general sense to signify those who have knowledge, those who are skilled in a branch of science. But perhaps the reference is more to an academic situation, in which a person flaunting academic dress controls those who are more knowledgeable than him, but who do not have such a high academic standing. In the traditional personification of Folly, such as that depicted in Erasmus’s In Praise of Folly, he was given learned pomposity and academic garb to suit it. See SB.p.249.n.10.
11. And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
simple truth = plain truth, unadorned truth. miscalled = wrongfully named.
simplicity = stupidity, idiocy.
12. And captive good attending captain ill:
captive = having been captured; enslaved, having no freedom; attending = serving in a menial capacity; taking instruction from.
captain ill = evil (an evil person) in a position of authority. The title referred to a military rank, but was often used in a more general sense to mean a military person in high authority,
Who does i’ the wars more than his captain can
Becomes his captain’s captain AC.III.1.21-2.
13. Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Wearied with all this graft and corruption, I wish to escape from it all.
14. Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
Save that = except that.
to die = by dying; if I die.
I leave my love alone = I abandon my love and leave him defenceless; the only thing that I regret leaving is my love.
Sonnet 66 is a world-weary, desperate list of grievances of the state of the poet’s society. The speaker criticizes three things: general unfairness of life, societal immorality, and oppressive government. Lines 2 and 3 illustrate the economic unfairness caused by one’s station or nobility:
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
Lines 4-7 portray disgraced trust and loyalty, unfairly given authority, as by an unworthy king “Gilden honour shamefully misplaced”, and female innocence corrupted “Maiden virtue rudely strumpeted”. Lines 8, 10, and 12, as in lines 2 and 3, characterize reversals of what one deserves, and what one actually receives in life.
As opposed to most of his sonnets, which have a “turn” in mood or thought at line 9, (the beginning of the third quatrain (See: Sonnets 29, 18) the mood of Sonnet 66 does not change until the last line, when the speaker declares that the only thing keeping him alive is his lover. This stresses the fact that his lover is helping him merely survive, whereas sonnets 29 and 30 are much more positive and have 6 lines in which they affirm that the lover is the fulfillment of the poet’s life.
Helen Vendler points out:
“Tired with all these – with what? The poem answers with a masquelike procession of ill-doing which contains sixteen people (more or less, depending on how one sees certain lines.) The figures pass before the speaker, and he describes them for us. Halfway through the procession, the look of the masque changes: the figures begin to pass by as twos – master and slave – instead of by ones. What does this mean?
The overwhelming cry – How? Why? By Whom? – is at first repressed as the allegorical procession of social crimes begins to pass by us. Worth (desert) files by in beggar’s robes; he is followed, in contrast, by (as the context makes clear) a worthless person dressed in fine clothes; next comes faith, betrayed; next a courtier who does not deserve the gilded honour awarded him; next a prostituted girl once a virgin; next a virtuous person now wrongly disgraced. None of this is explained. Finally the cui bono bursts out: Sway limps, and would be worsted by strength unless it took pains to disable that strength; authority is false, and its falsity would be exposed by art’s disclosure, except that art has had its tongue tied (in a spondee) by that very authority; skill would excel except that the docti or learned fools, control it institutionally; simple truth would prevail were it not labeled (by those same docti, no doubt) ‘naivete’’; and good would exert its power were it not held captive by the evil (ill) who is everywhere the prince of this world. The diabolic is here naturalized and secularized as captain (i.e., chief) ill. It is implied that any deserving, rightly perfect, good, virtuous, faithful, honorable, strong, skillful, and truthful person will soon find himself caught by one of the victimizers. And who, under such conditions, could justify leaving his love – somewhere in the procession – alone?
As the poem progresses, passing in its paratatic and…and…and from social, moral, and political wrongs to aesthetic, cognitive, and linguistic evils, we see that the speaker has a hierarchy of social abuses in mind. These roughly parallel the Christian hierarchy of sins, in which sins of the flesh are ranked as less serious than sins of the will and the intellect. For Shakespeare (the artist in language) miscall[ing] is the greatest sin, and is therefore placed in the climactic position, closely preceded by the pretense of learning (doctor-like folly) and censorship of art.
If indeed art has been rendered tongue-tied, the poem cannot afford to appear ‘eloquent.’ What would a tongue-tied art sound like? It would sound (to use a modern simile) like a needle stuck in a groove, which is precisely what this wearily reiterative and syntactically poverty-stricken and…and sonnet offers as utterance. It is so tired, and so tongue-tied, that it sounds repetitive and anticlimactic: the Couplet Tie is tired with all these and death [die]. Even its generalizing lack of specificity is tongue-tied; and the un-Shakespearean tri- and quadrisyllabic rhymes (jollity, strumpeted, disabled, authority, simplicity) make lines end weakly. The sonnet ‘comes alive’ only if readers ‘animate’ it by reflecting, as each character in the masque passes by, on the contemporary face they would attach to each personage. The poem then becomes acute, relevant, and painful.”
And finally, from Jonathan Bate, one way of looking at the sonnets as a whole:
“Twelfth Night is an extraordinary exploration of the permutations of desire or, in Francis Mere’s term, the perplexities of love. Both Orsino and Olivia love Viola in her disguise as Casario. Viola loves, and wins, Orsino, while Olivia has to settle for Sebastian. Orsino insists on continuing to call Viola Cesario even after he knows that she is a woman. Sebastian is puzzled, though grateful, to find himself whisked to the altar by the wealthy and beautiful Olivia, but he cannot have had time to fall in love with her. The person who really loves him is Antonio, who reminds him that for three months, ‘No interim, not a minute’s vacancy,/Both day and night did we keep company.’ He follows his beloved despite the risk to his own life: ‘But come what may, I do adore thee so,/That danger shall seem sport, and I will go.’ Like a sonneteer, he speaks of being spurred on by his ‘desire,/More sharp than filed steel’ and, again, of paying ‘devotion’ to ‘his image, which methought did promise/Most venerable worth.’ He is rewarded for his devotion by being left alone and melancholy, again in the exact manner of a sonnet writer burned away by his frosty mistress. It is very easy to imagine Antonio going away at the end of Twelfth Night and writing something on the following lines, addressed to Sebastian:
They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing that most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense.
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
This is actually the speaker of Shakespeare’s sonnets as he finds himself rejected by the fair youth or the lovely boy. Shakespeare’s women are never like this. They do do the things they most do show. They move others but are never stone themselves, unless men turn them into coldness (Leontes freezing Hermione out of his life, forcing her to become a statue of stone; Angelo’s sexual ardor requiring novice Isabella’s cool response). His women give – of their selves, their wit and courage. It is Shakespeare’s chilly, self-controlled young men – Prince Hal, Angelo, Bertram, who take, who are ‘the lords and owners of their faces.’
To read the sonnets alongside Twelfth Night in this way is to see that Shakespeare’s poems are more than anything else a drama of love’s perplexity. We do not usually look for biographical originals for Viola/Cesario, Sebastian, Orsino, Olivia, and Antonio, nor should we necessarily do so for the ‘lovely boy’ and the ‘dark lady.’ To recall Giles Fletcher: a many may write of love without being in love, and the beloved of a sonnet sequence may be a conceit and portend nothing. For all their talk of immortalizing the beloved through the poetry of praise, Shakespeare’s Sonnets do not immortalize anybody apart from Shakespeare. If his intention had been to share his admiration for a particular person, one would have expected him to get around to naming him (and/or her) at some point in the sequence. The very lack of names – even of a mythological-allegorical kind – suggests that attempting to ‘unshadow’ the origin of the sonnets is to read them against the grain. Shakespeare’s original intention was to circulate them among his private friends, so perhaps we should be content to let them remain private.”
My next post: Tuesday Evening/Wednesday Morning — an introduction to our next play, the extraordinarily lyrical (and Bloom’s favorite of all Shakespeare’s plays) — Love’s Labour’s Lost.