Shakespeare's Sonnets By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Sonnet 86

Summary

Unlike the previous sonnets dealing with the rival poet, this last sonnet in the rival-poet sequence is written in the past tense and indicates that the rival is no longer a threat. Up to this point, the rival was shown gaining on the poet for the youth's affection, and the youth's encouragement of the rival poet deflated the poet's creative powers: "But when your countenance filled up his line, / Then lacked I matter; that enfeebled mine." The young man's inattention to the poet weakened the verse that the poet wrote during the youth's absence.

The image of the ship in the first two lines — "Was it the proud full sail of his great verse, / Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you" — makes clear the rival poet's real threat to the poet, but the poet argues — perhaps too staunchly, indicating more insecurity than he would have us believe — that at no time did his rival's poetic successes affect the poet's own verse: "No, neither he, nor his compeers by night / Giving him aid, my verse astonished." After completing a satirical portrait of his nemesis, the poet mocks the rival's pretensions — his solemnity, his bombast, and his delusions — and finally drops him from the sonnets' story line.

Glossary

compeers by night spirit aids.

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