Summary and Analysis Sonnet 96



Still using the paternal tone, the poet observes that the young man's vices are a subject of public gossip. The contrast between the youth's beauty and his vicious way of life makes the vices seem less immoral than otherwise: "Thou mak'st faults graces that to thee resort." The youth's ability to transform defects in his personality into attributes says more about his shallow society of friends and suitors, obviously more concerned with appearance than substance, than it does about the youth himself. How gullible must people be not to see through the young man's flimsy veneer, and how pathetic must the poet be to continue supporting the youth's reputation. The concluding couplet, which is identical to the last two lines in Sonnet 36, contradicts the "ill report" from the previous sonnet. Now the poet presents a "good report" of the youth. That these two lines are identical to the final couplet in Sonnet 36 demonstrates just how much the poet has regressed to his earlier dependence on the youth. Sadly, he has learned nothing over the course of some sixty sonnets. At this point, it appears that he is emotionally unable to bid the young man farewell.