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Shakespeare's Sonnets

William Shakespeare

Summary and Analysis Sonnet 84


The poet offers advice — while criticizing the rival poet — to any writer who wishes to achieve true poetry: Copying and interpreting nature are necessary for art, but lavishly ornamenting nature creates false art. For this reason, no distortion of the youth's beauty describes him. The poet need only tell the simple truth to flatter the youth best: "Let him but copy what in you is writ, / Not making worse what nature made so clear."

Criticizing the young man's addiction to praise as a mark of bad taste, the poet censures his friend for succumbing to the rival poet's glorification of him, which he says is merely prattle and therefore does the youth no good. The poet makes clear that the youth perpetuates the rival poet's false art: "You to your beauteous blessings add a curse, / Being fond on praise, which makes your praises worse." Clearly love does not distort the poet's judgment; his reproving the young man establishes his own independent spirit, which heretofore has been sadly lacking.


penury poverty.