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Sonnet 146 Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. What do you think the speaker of Sonnet 146 would have to say about the slang phrase "You Only Live Once"? Would this guy be caught dead wearing a "YOLO" t-shirt to a concert? Why or why not?
  2. Do you agree with the speaker's argument that we should worry less about materialistic things and pay more attention to our inner spiritual lives?
  3. Sonnet 146 has a rep for being Shakespeare's most religious poem. Do you think that's true? 
  4. The speaker of this sonnet addresses a "poor soul." Whose soul is he talking to? His own? Or, is he talking to someone else and telling them not to be so shallow?
  5. When this sonnet was first published (1609), there was a printing error and a phrase from the end of the first line was repeated at the beginning of the second line: "my sinful earth." If you were hired to edit a modern edition of the sonnets, what would you do with this? Would you just leave it like the 1609 edition? Would you omit the repetition? Would you try to come up with the word(s) Shakespeare may have originally intended? What words might you put there?
  6. Compare this sonnet's final couplet to the last two lines of John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" (Holy Sonnet 10). What does Shakespeare's poem have in common with Donne's?
  7. If you were hired to give this sonnet a title (instead of just a number), what would you call it?

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