Updated date:

Shakespeare Sonnet 70: "That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect"

The Shakespeare sonnets play an essential rôle in my poetry world. Those 154 classic sonnets masterfully dramatize truth, beauty, and love.

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 70: "That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect"

Every artist or poet must face criticism. And because criticism consists basically of the opinion of the critic, it is always likely that some critic will give a negative review of the piece of art. Unfair critics will always be with us, just as charlatans and poetasters will be. In sonnet 70 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, this speaker is admonishing his own creative self that it is the best work that is most likely to receive the harshest criticism.

While such a notion might seem to be mere rationalization because poor work can also be harshly criticized, this speaker has proven repeatedly that he is a genuine artist and that he creates only the "sweetest" works possible. Thus, readers and listeners of this speaker will remain open to his opinions and will be able to grasp his take on every eventuality with an open mind.

Sonnet 70: "That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect"

That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo’d of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail’d, or victor being charg’d;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy evermore enlarg’d:
If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

Reading of Sonnet 70

Commentary

In order to mitigate the pangs felt from unfair criticism, the speaker is addressing his artist soul, formulating and offering sage advice.

First Quatrain: Addressing the Artist Inside

That thou art blam’d shall not be thy defect
For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 70, the speaker addresses his own artist self, assuring himself that the blame he may incur does not indicate that he, or is work, is therefore defective. Those who slander always choose what is best because there is no point in running down what is already unworthy of praise.

Such an attitude may be considered a rationalization, but this speaker, as his followers have discovered, is secure in his own self-awareness regarding his art. This speaker knows genuine criticism from mere slander. Whenever a beautiful object appears in nature, its opposite appears to tarnish it. Such is the nature of duality on the earth plane.

Second Quatrain: Vowing to Continue Good Work

So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being woo’d of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.

The speaker then advises his soul to "be good," or to continue producing good works, worthy art because negative criticism is simply a sign that his art is genuine, certainly more worthy than the negative critique The speaker is again implying that scandalous criticism by comparison will only showcase the genuineness of the true artist’s creations.

The worm that seeks out "buds" to suckle seeks "the sweetest," and the speaker’s art is "pure unstained prime." It is then a simple matter of logic that such a rare purified art should become a target of unscrupulous critics who endeavor to disparage genuine art. Those same bilge spouting blatherers will then find favor in works of a definite inferior quality.

Third Quatrain: No Longer a Beginner

Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail’d, or victor being charg’d;
Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
To tie up envy evermore enlarg’d:
If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

The speaker then reminds his artist soul that he is no longer a youth starting out in his chosen art field. This speaker is a mature artist, not an adolescent who can be jerked around by fits and starts of high-flown poetic nonsense. The praise this speaker/poet receives is for the skill that he possesses; he crafts his sonnets using his best materials and techniques. This speaker does not engage in his art "[t]o tie up envy" but to produce the best that can be spoken about the spiritual realm of being as it pertains to the material.

The skill that this artist possesses has come to him through his maturity, and he remains cognizant that the acquisition of age is to be praised even if that praise will likely never be heaped upon art that transcends common mores and low levels of understanding. This speaker’s devotion to the genuine over the fake remains intact despite the cold, hard stares of doubting critics.

The Couplet: Recognizing True Worth

If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show,
Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

If unscrupulous shysters did not try to disparage this artist’s creations, he would have to take on the total responsibility of spreading his creations to all those who will, indeed, love his works. While positive criticism works to publicize even the most egregious art, negative or scandalous false criticism can also help publicize even the best art.

This talented, deep-thinking speaker retains his confidence that his art is genuine and that true art lovers will be able to recognize its worth. Thus, as the naysayers ply their trade, he can remain confident that they are only helping to spread his vision, despite their obvious destructive intensions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on July 03, 2017:

Glad to be of service, Louise. Yes, poetry is fascinating, so versatile, uplifting, entertaining, and educational. I like to think I focus on the educational primarily, but I do enjoy the other qualities of poetry. Have a blessed day!

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on July 02, 2017:

I learn so much from reading your articles. I love poetry.

Related Articles