Shakespeare's Sonnet 67 is a thematic continuation of "Sonnet 66," and is more generally one of the group of poems addressed to a well-born younger man. In this poem, the speaker's anxiety about the social difference between him and his beloved takes the form of a criticism of courtly corruption. This sonnet was placed first in the pirated and mangled edition of 1640.
Why does the man I love have to live in a milieu of such moral corruption, bringing his grace to the sins of those around him, to sin's advantage? Why do others paint themselves (that is, use makeup) to imitate the beauties he has naturally? Why should those of inferior beauty seek false roses when he himself has a true one? Indeed, why should he himself live, now that Nature itself has lost the power to create beautiful things--that is, because Nature has given all of her store of beauty to him? Nature preserves him in order to show what she (that is, Nature) was capable of in the old days, before the current degeneration.
Source and analysis
Gary Schmidgall notes that the underlying conceit of the sonnet derives from Petrarch
, for whom hyperbolic praise is a main part of the stock in trade. For most critics, this theme is in this poem significant as it interacts with another theme, the corruption of the court. This theme, which was prominent in the voguish satire
of the 1590s. As he would in Hamlet
, Shakespeare draws on the language of abuse derived ultimately from Roman satirists such as Juvenal
. The combination of satiric and romantic language is commonly said to reinforce the speaker's ambivalence about his beloved. M. M. Mahood notes the lexical uncertainty of line 1, which leaves open the possibility that the friend himself is infected. For this reason, Roger Warren points to a thematic similarity to All's Well That Ends Well
, whose hero, Bertram, is similarly ambiguous.
"Lace" in line 4 has been glossed various ways. Citing Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, George Steevens glossed it as "embellish"; Edward Dowden agreed, but George Wyndham has it as "diversify." Wyndham also perceives a reference to the "rival poet" in lines 7-8. In line 8, "seeing" is sometimes amended to "seeming" but more commonly "dead seeing" is glossed as some variation "lifeless appearance."
- Alden, Raymond. The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1916.
- Baldwin, T. W. On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1950.
- Booth, Stephen. Shakespeare's Sonnets. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
- Dowden, Edward. Shakespeare's Sonnets. London, 1881.
- Hubler, Edwin. The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952.
- Warren, George. "Why Does It End Well? Helena, Bertram, and the Sonnets." Shakespeare Studies 22 (1969).