Sonnet 75—also known by its first line: "So are you to my thoughts as food to life"—is #75 out of 154. That's (wait a minute, let us get a calculator)… about halfway through William Shakespeare's book of 154 Sonnets. The collection was published way back in 1609—to pretty poor sales mind you. Still, just because a poem is hundreds of years old, and didn't knock the socks of its buying public, doesn't mean that this is something you should pooh-pooh.
Oh, no. To all you potential pooh-pooh'ers out there we say this: It's William Shakespeare for cryin' out loud! Though he was known primarily as a playwright, Big Bill was a prolific, and immensely talented poet. Specifically, his sonnets were exercises in deeply personal and moving reflection, all wrapped up in neat formal package. Take Sonnet 75, for instance. It details a speaker who is all torn up about something that usually has folks walking on sunshine: love.
What's the right way to love? Does the lover have any claim on the beloved, or should they have to share that person with the world? Is the torment that accompanies love worth the emotional benefits? These are the kinds of big, complex questions that Shakespeare's asking here. What's more, using the structure and rhythms of the sonnet form, he's asking them in such a masterful way that we're able to see a true master at his craft. Perhaps that's why so many people, since his death, have turned to Shakespeare's sonnets as the ultimate source of inspiration when it comes to love.
Why Should I Care?
So, let's say you're sitting in the school library, trying to do some homework. Why only trying? Well, of course, there's nothing you'd rather be doing than studying for that upcoming test on Shakespeare's incredible Sonnets… but there's just one problem: you're hungry. Very hungry. At first you try to ignore it, and keep your eyes on the page, but as soon as you read the opening words to Sonnet 75, "So are you to my thoughts as food to life," for the life of you, you can't shake the thought of food.
Finally, you've had enough. You shut your book and head to the vending machine to get the biggest bag of chips you can. Unfortunately, since this is a vending machine, the bags are all pretty small. So you decide to simply load up: chips, pretzels, chocolate bars, candy, the works. "Good," you think to yourself, "once I've eaten this food I'll have all the energy I need to concentrate on my work."
Of course, food isn't allowed in the library, so you quickly wolf everything down in the hall—and then get down to work. But now there's a new problem. Instead of making your energized and alert, your feast of junk-food has turned into a seething mass in the pit of your stomach. Maybe you'd better sit down in one of those comfy chairs in the back of the library, just to give yourself some time to digest. Ahh, that's more comfortable. Too comfortable. And just like that—you doze off.
Sound familiar? Good: your ol' buddy William Shakespeare wants it that way. When you finally wake up from your nap and get back to that sonnet, you'll see that Shakespeare is actually using hunger (and greed, a similar, though somewhat different feeling) as a metaphor for love. Based on your experience at the vending machine, you'll have no trouble understanding why Shakespeare thinks a bad relationship is like food: when you don't have it, you can't think of anything else. But when you have too much of it, you wish you'd never been hungry in the first place.