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Analysis

Jealousy Imagery

Symbol Analysis

Closely connected to the idea of deception in the poem is the idea of jealousy. Why? Well, think about it: the speaker isn’t just mad that he was wrong about the lady he’s madly in love with, he’s mad that he was wrong about thinking that she wasn’t a total cheat. Many lines in the poem communicate in no uncertain terms the speaker’s intense feelings of jealousy at the other men who have supposedly enjoyed his lady-love’s attentions.

  • Lines 5-8: These lines, which make up quatrain 2, contain probably the most vivid imagery in the poem, which also doubles as a powerful metaphor. What’s probably the most eye-catching (so to speak) metaphor in this stanza is the speaker’s incredibly obscene way of referring to his lady-love—or at least part of her—as "the bay where all men ride." We think you can probably use your imagination to figure out what the speaker is talking about here, but if you need a little more of a hint, check out our "Detailed Summary" section. 
  • At the moment, we just want to point out how this metaphor itself also contains another literary device, known as hyperbole, (exaggeration for effect). Now, we don’t know about you, but we find it just a little hard to believe that the speaker’s lady-friend has really slept with "all men" on the planet. Like, it may have been a large number, but that’s really crazy. This exaggeration just shows us how angry the speaker’s jealousy is really making him. 
  • Lines 9-10: Much like lines 5-8, these lines express frustration at the fact that the speaker remains in denial of the fact that his lady-love is a massive cheater. Once again, he conveys his jealousy very vividly through some a metaphor (the apparently separate plot of land that is actually a public park refers to a certain part of his mistress’s anatomy which he falsely thought was reserved just for him).
    Once again, the speaker’s frustration is conveyed through the device of hyperbole (exaggerating for effect). Once again, we know that his lady-friend gets around, but we certainly don’t think she qualifies as "the wide world’s common place." Now, that would be really getting around!. 
  • Line 14: The final expression of the speaker’s angry jealousy comes in the last line of the poem. As you will see in our "Detailed Summary" section, the words "false plague" contain an incredibly complex series of multiple meanings.
    First of all, the word "plague" might be a reference to the STDs the speaker’s lady-friend has picked up on account of her "false[ness]." In this case, this reference would count as an instance of synecdoche. (Don’t worry if the term is a bit of a mouthful. Basically, it means when you use a part of something to stand-in for all of it. Like, when the captain of a ship calls out for "all hands on deck," he is using a part of a sailor—his or her hands—to stand in for the whole person. He isn’t asking for a pile of disembodied hands to show up on deck. That would be gross.) So how is what Shakespeare’s doing a synecdoche? He is using something the speaker’s lady-friend has (an STD, which is a part of her) to refer to all of her.
  • And yet, there could be a completely different synecdoche going on here, depending on how you interpret that word "plague." As we discuss in our "Detailed Summary," Helen Vendler suggests that the word "plague" might be playing off the word’s Latin root meaning of plaga, which means "wound." According to Vendler, the image of a "wound" might call to mind… well, the most intimate part of Shakespeare’s mistress’s anatomy. Thus, this could be another way in which the speaker is using a part of his lady-friend to stand in for his entire lady-friend. Based on the treasure trove of multiple meanings it contains, it seems safe to say that the word "plague" here is intended as a pun—the literary device where you use one word with multiple meanings.
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