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Sonnet 147 Questions

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

  1. Whom do you think the speaker is talking to in this sonnet? Some folks think he's speaking to the same woman (a.k.a. the "Dark Lady") that shows up in a lot of other sonnets (127-152). Do you agree? Is there any evidence that he's addressing either a man or a woman?
  2. If you were going to turn Sonnet 147 into a video like these performers did, what would it look and sound like? Need some more inspiration? Here's another video from Shakespeare's Sonnets in the City. 
  3. What does the speaker mean when he says "desire is death" (8)? Why does he feel this way?
  4. The speaker goes on and on about how he's lost his mind and has become a madman. Do you believe him? Why or why not?
  5. If you were hired to give titles to all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets, what would you call Sonnet 147?
  6. As we know, Sonnet 147 is an extended metaphor comparing sexual desire to an illness. Do you think there's any evidence in the poem that the speaker also has a literal disease? Why or why not? Does it even matter?
  7. Compare Shakespeare's Sonnet 147 to Edmund Spenser's Sonnet 50 from Amoretti. What kinds of themes and metaphors do these two poems share in common?
  8. Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom calls Sonnet 147 "the most terrifying erotic poem [he] know[s]" (source). What the heck does he mean by that? Do you agree with him?

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