Sonnet Commentaries
             MOTTO: Know you not that I must be about my mother's business

  • The commentaries show how to apply the Sonnet
    philosophy to individual sonnets, and so avoid the
    inadequacies of the traditional paradigm.

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearean Thought
    The Quaternary Institute

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    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.

    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005


    An analysis of emendations made to the text of the 1609 edition
    since Malone in 1780

    Over the last 200 years the history of editing the 1609 edition of Shake-speares Sonnets has been a sorry tale of the application of an inappropriate paradigm to the Sonnets. From Reverend Edmund Malone in 1780, scores of unnecessary emendations have been made to the original text because editors have been ignorant of Shakespeare’s philosophy.
            This analysis of the traditional emendations has been prepared to allow an appreciation of the soundness of the 1609 text. The analysis provides a commentary on 60 emendations typical of the changes still made to the Sonnets by editors since Malone. The list is not exhaustive but does include all the ‘their’ to ‘thy’ and similar changes and a selection of other changes.
            Changes made to spelling on the basis of modern use where the original meaning is preserved are not at issue. Changes in punctuation are referred to occasionally although they are an area for concern as in a number of instances the meaning is altered by the changes. Similarly, only a couple of references to changes to capitals are made even though there has been considerable interference with Shakespeare’s original choices. John Kerrigan in his The Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint, for instance, capitalises the ‘t’ in ‘time’ in a number of cases throughout his modern English version to make them conform with his prioritisation of the theme of time.
            The object of the analysis is to demonstrate that nearly all the substantive changes retained in modern editions are unnecessary. Of the 60 or so changes examined only a handful can truly be called textual error and each of these involves the misplacement or inversion of one letter within a word. The number of typographical errors is close to what might be expected under modern conditions.
            As there is no evidence that Shakespeare was not fully involved in the publication of the Sonnets, and as they express a coherent philosophy, any attempt to alter the meanings of words must be viewed with concern. The traditional attitude that has considered the 1609 text inauthentic and unreliable is brought into question. This is especially the case when the alleged incompetence of the compositors has frequently been used as an excuse for further altering or reordering the Sonnets.
            Even the practice of printing the Sonnets at two per page in most modern editions disrupts the evident continuity in the original arrangement. The continuity created by having a pattern of sonnets straddling pages throughout the set emphasises the coherence of Shakespeare’s philosophy. He emphasises the continuity of his arguments by interlinking two or more sonnets logically to present a single argument. Most commentators ignore the evidence for continuity of argument within the set.
            For instance, David K. Weiser, in Mind in Character, notes that sonnets 5 and 15 (and 14) ‘fail to mention either father, mother or child’ (p. 8) and in particular that 15 ‘drops the procreation theme’ (p. 33). It is he, though, who fails to recognise that 5 and 15 are logically tied to 6 and 16.
            It is not possible to appreciate the natural logic of the Sonnets using traditional academic methods based on figures of speech or other formal devices. Weiser’s examination of irony, like Kerrigan’s treatment of tautology and Blair Leishman’s focus on hyperbole in Themes and Variations in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, provides an inadequate substitute for the deep logic of the Sonnet philosophy.
            In this analysis, sonnet 14 is pivotal for correcting the traditional misreading. Not only does it express the logic of the ‘increase/truth and beauty’ argument for the remaining 140 sonnets, it occurs at an important juncture in the numerological structure. Further, it establishes the meaning of the ‘eyes’ as a logical image used throughout the Sonnets to relate the mind and heart. A significant number of emendations, especially some of the crucial ‘their/thy’ alterations, have been made in ignorance of the logic of the eyes.
            After ten years of writing the Sonnet commentaries and preparing the four volumes for publication, many aspects of the Sonnets unknown to the literature but consistent with the 1609 original have emerged, including a numerology coherent with the whole set. So when the same understanding is applied to textual matters it should come as no surprise that the great majority of emendations in modern editions can be proved unnecessary.




    As in "Q"



    Sonnet 12
    Sonnet 13
    Sonnet 24
    Sonnet 25
    Sonnet 26
    Sonnet 27
    Sonnet 28
    Sonnet 31
    Sonnet 34
    Sonnet 35

    Sonnet 37
    Sonnet 40
    Sonnet 41

    Sonnet 43
    Sonnet 44
    Sonnet 45
    Sonnet 46

    Sonnet 47
    Sonnet 50
    Sonnet 54
    Sonnet 55
    Sonnet 57
    Sonnet 59
    Sonnet 65
    Sonnet 67

    Sonnet 69

    Sonnet 70
    Sonnet 76
    Sonnet 77

    Sonnet 90
    Sonnet 99
    Sonnet 101
    Sonnet 106
    Sonnet 111
    Sonnet 112
    Sonnet 113

    Sonnet 126
    Sonnet 127
    Sonnet 128

    Sonnet 129

    Sonnet 132
    Sonnet 136
    Sonnet 144

    Sonnet 153

    line 4
    line 7
    line 1
    line 9
    line 12
    line 10
    line 12
    line 8
    line 12
    line 8
    line 8
    line 7
    line 7
    line 7,
    line 8
    line 11
    line 13
    line 12
    line 3
    line 8
    line 13
    line 14
    line 9
    line 11
    line 6
    line 14
    line 1
    line 13
    line 11
    line 12
    line 6
    line 9
    line 12
    line 3
    line 5
    line 6
    line 7
    line 1
    line 10
    line 11
    line 9
    line 2
    line 12
    line 1
    line 14
    line 6
    line 14
    line 8
    line 10
    line 11
    line 14
    line 1
    line 9
    line 11
    line 9
    line 6
    line 6
    line 9
    line 14

    you selfe      

    no or not
    mine eye
    proved, a

    (snt 37.6; ADO 3.1.27; RL 56)
    (snt 61)
    (snts 3,59)
    (snts 42,90)
    (snt142: "wooe")
    (snt 88, LC 113)
    (TRO 5.1.44; snts 27,28,43,61)
    (snts 81,107)
    (some editors)
    (braiue/brainAYL 2.7.20;oue/oneCOR 4.4.136)
    (WT 4.4.185: "tell money"
    (snts15,55,127,140; LC 95, 291)
    (snts 63,65)
    (snt 54)
    (snt 120.6: "y'have")
    (not all editors)
    (RL 329,962)
    (line10: "they" and "their")
    (see typographic errors below)
    (AYL 2.7.149:"mistress' eyebrow")


    Sonnet 6
    Sonnet 19
    Sonnet 24
    Sonnet 33
    Sonnet 46
    Sonnet 55
    Sonnet 69
    Sonnet 88
    Sonnet 91
    Sonnet 122

    line 4
    line 3
    line 3
    line 14
    line 4
    line 9
    line 14
    line 1
    line 9
    line 1






    The commentary on the emendations is in two parts. All the ‘their/thy’ and similar changes are considered as a group. They are followed by analysis of the other emendations.

    The changes from "their" to "thy"

    Preliminary comments
    A comparison can be made between the use of the words ‘their’ and ‘thy’ in Q and the use of the words ‘then’ and ‘than’ in modern editions. In the 1609 edition the word ‘then’ doubles as both ‘then’ and ‘than’. The word ‘than’ does not appear in Q at all. Instead the word ‘then’ has both meanings. ‘Then’ conveys both the temporal sense ‘at that time’ and the comparative sense ‘in relation to’. The second meaning corresponds to that of the modern word ‘than’. So the change in modern editions from ‘then’ to ‘than’, for the 50 or so times that ‘then’ has the comparative meaning, is not an emendation of the word ‘then’. The ‘then’ to ‘than’ changes are a response not to an error but to a change in use over time.
            A change in use, however, cannot explain the editor’s confusion over 15 occurrences of words ‘their’ and ‘thy’. ‘Thy’ occurs over 200 times in the 1609 edition and ‘their’ occurs over 70 times. So, unlike the ‘thens’, an alteration of the meaning of the word ‘their’ to ‘thy’ cannot be justified on the basis of modern usage.
            Nor should an appeal be made to difficulties experienced by compositors in interpreting handwritten manuscripts, or even to simple carelessness on the part of the compositors. After all, the editors who make the 15 ‘their’ to ‘thy’ emendations tacitly accept that the compositors correctly transcribed the word ‘their’ from an original manuscript in an overwhelming percentage of cases. If the compositors were prone to confuse a ‘thy’ for a ‘their’, the editors do not find fault with the ‘their’ and the ‘thy’ that occur together in line 14 of sonnet 20 and which they accept as being typeset correctly. There are also a number of occurrences of the two words in the same sonnet, such as sonnet 128. Neither does it bother the editors that the supposed ‘their/thy’ errors occur only within Shake-speares Sonnets and not at all in his plays and other poems.
            The emending editors (beginning with Malone in 1780) make the ‘their’ to ‘thy’ emendations because they claim the word ‘their’ has no acceptable meaning. But, rather than question their own inadequate expectations and beliefs, they charge the otherwise diligent compositors with carelessness. To bolster the case against the hapless compositors they then seek out 50 or more other errors. These commentaries will demonstrate that the whole charade collapses when the Sonnets are viewed in the light of their inherent philosophy.
            The object of the first group of commentaries, then, is to determine the meaning of the word ‘their’ in each of the sonnets by applying the philosophy of the Sonnets. And, as a corollary, it will become apparent why the editors have so doggedly insisted on the need to emend the ‘their’ to ‘thy’ in only those few cases.

    Sonnet 26:

    Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
    Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit;
    To thee I send this written ambassage
    To witness duty, not to show my wit.
    Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
    May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it;
    But that I hope some good conceit of thine
    In thy soul’s thought (all naked) will bestow it:
    Till whatsoever star that guides my moving,
    Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
    And puts apparel on my tottered loving,
    To show me worthy of their sweet respect,
        Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee,
        Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me.

            The emendation is from ‘their’ to ‘thy’ (26.12). In Q the subject for the ‘their’ is the ‘whatsoever star’ (26.9). For most of the ‘their’ to ‘thy’ emendations the subject of the ‘their’ can be found in the same quatrain.
            The meaning of ‘their’ derives from the relationship of eyes and stars established in sonnet 14. As stated categorically in sonnet 14, truth and beauty derives not from heavenly ‘stars’ but from the ‘eyes’ of the youth. Sonnet 26 uses the word ‘star’ in the metaphorical sense established by sonnet 14. The ‘whatsoever star’ invokes the ‘constant stars’ that are ‘thine eyes’ (14.9-10). The ‘whatsoever star’ is one or other of the ‘stars’ that are the youth’s eyes.
            Heavenly stars are not the subject of sonnet 26. Being ‘worthy’ and gaining ‘sweet respect’ (26.12) does not derive from the stars above. Rather respect comes from the eyes of the ‘Lord of my love’. The eyes bestow grace by putting ‘apparel on my tottered loving’. Throughout the Sonnets the ‘eyes’ of the youth give access to the mind, the heart, and the imaginary soul. Hence the reference to ‘thy soul’s thought’ (26.8) immediately before the ‘whatsoever star’ (26.9). For the Poet it is illogical to use a distant star (‘whatsoever star’) as the basis for ‘thought’ in matters of ‘worth’ and ‘respect’.
            Sonnets 24 and 25 prepare for the meaning of sonnet 26 by reiterating the logical relationship of stars and eyes established in sonnet 14. Sonnet 24 affirms that the Poet’s ‘eye’ and the ‘eyes’ of the youth (‘thine eyes’) are the windows to their ‘hearts’. Sonnet 25 dismisses the ‘stars’ (such as the ‘sun’s eye’) to which ‘Princes’ prostrate their ‘pride’ for ‘public honour’. (The sexual pun on the Poet’s eye and the buried pride is intended.) Sonnet 25 concludes that the Poet is ‘happy’ in his eye-to-eye experience of ‘love’.
            So the ‘their’ in sonnet 26 refers to both ‘eyes’, either of which ‘guides my moving’, and not to a ‘star’ in the heavens. The emendation to ‘thy’ shortcircuits the meaningfulness of the eyes by connecting the ‘sweet respect’ directly to the person of the ‘Lord of my love’ (26.1). The emendation disrupts the logical association of ‘thine eyes’ with ‘truth and beauty’. The substitution of ‘their’ with ‘thy’ compounds the misunderstanding by evoking to a simplistic level of literary appreciation based on biographical speculation.
            A number of times throughout the Sonnets, the word ‘their’ refers to the ‘eyes’ or the ‘sight’ of the youth. Appreciating the consistent use of this device, and the role of sonnet 14 in determining the logical relation of ‘eyes’ and ‘stars’, is crucial for an understanding of its role in the Sonnets. Nor is the use of the plural possessive to refer to the ‘eyes’ or ‘sight’ confined to the word ‘their’. The ‘eyes’ are referred to as ‘they’ in sonnets 24, 43, 47, 56, 69, 121, 127, 132, 137, 139 141, 148, 152, and as ‘them’ in sonnets 14 and 152.
            An understanding of the significance of ‘stars’, ‘eyes’, ‘truth and beauty’, and ‘increase’ or ‘store’ in sonnet 14, is critical to appreciating the meaning of sonnet 26. The change to ‘thy’ interferes with that meaning.

    Sonnet 27:

    Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
    The dear repose for limbs with travel tired,
    But then begins a journey in my head
    To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired.
    For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
    Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
    And keep my drooping eye-lids open wide,
    Looking on darkness which the blind do see.
    Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
    Presents their shadow to my sightless view,
    Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night)
    Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
        Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
        For thee, and for my self, no quiet find.

            The subject of the ‘their’ (27.10) is the word ‘sight’ (27.9). Its meaning is consistent with the meaning for the eyes derived from sonnet 14. (For other examples of ‘sight’ in relation to ‘eyes’, see sonnets 46, 47, 61, 139, 148, and 150.) The ‘sight’ referred to is not the youth’s presence or imaginary image. It is the faculty of sight or, in this case, the imaginative eyesight of the Poet’s ‘soul’. The ‘soul’s imaginary sight’ remains ‘sightless’ like the Poet’s because of the blackness of the night.
            The Poet’s inability to see anything in the dark is the theme of the sonnet. He looks or gazes through ‘drooping eye-lids open wide’ (27.7), into a featureless darkness that the ‘blind do see’ (27.8). From within the Poet’s ‘mind’ his ‘soul’s imaginary sight’ projects ‘their shadow’ to his ‘sightless view’. The blackness of the ‘shadow’ presented by his soul’s eyes does not register against the black night. The Poet sees nothing either in fact or in imagination.
            In his ‘thoughts’ the Poet ‘intend(s) a zealous pilgrimage’ (27.6) to the youth, but he cannot bring an image of the youth to mind. The darkness in his soul’s ‘sight’ or eyes (‘their shadow’) matches the darkness outside. His expectation is frustrated. The impossibility of imagining the presence of the youth is equivalent to not seeing a ‘jewel (hung in ghastly night)’, (27.11). All it does, in lieu of an image of the youth, is to make blackness ‘beauteous’. And, because it is absolutely black, she (night) may as well have a ‘new face’ as an ‘old’ one, (27.12). The couplet confirms this reading by stating that the Poet finds ‘no quiet’ day or night.
            The emendation from ‘their’ to ‘thy’ carries the implication that the ‘shadow’ of the youth appears in some form before the eyes of the Poet. But this is in direct contradiction to the doubled blackness (the ‘shadow’ and the ‘night’) in the third quatrain and the double disquiet of the couplet. Because ‘sight’ has the same meaning as ‘thine eyes’ out of sonnet 14, the original wording of sonnet 27 stands.
            This understanding of sonnet 27 can be confirmed by comparing it with the content of sonnets 28 and 43. In sonnet 28 the theme of not seeing the youth either in fact or in imagination continues. ‘Day’s oppression is not eased by night’ (28.3), with the consequence that by lines 11 and 12 the Poet resorts to self deception. Just as the ‘black’ of sonnet 27 seemed ‘beauteous’ in expectation of an image of the youth, here the Poet is prepared to fool himself that the malice in the night is the youth beguiling ‘th’even’. ‘Flatter I the swart complexioned night, When sparkling stars twire not thou guil’st th’even.’ (28.11-12).
            Sonnet 43, examined in detail below, confirms that the youth’s image is not available to the sleepless or open eyes. Only when the Poet falls asleep and ‘dreams’ does ‘thy shadow’s form, form happy show’.
            An examination of these three sonnets makes it clear that an imposition of ‘thy’ on ‘shadow’ is contrary to their meaning.

    Sonnet 31:

    Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
    Which I by lacking have supposed dead,
    And there reigns Love and all Love’s loving parts,
    And all those friends which I thought buried.
    How many a holy and obsequious tear
    Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,
    As interest of the dead, which now appear,
    But things removed that hidden in there lie.
    Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
    Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
    Who all their parts of me to thee did give,
    That due of many, now is thine alone.
        Their images I loved, I view in thee,
        And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.

            The emendation in sonnet 31, while not from ‘their’ to ‘thy’, is made for similar reasons. The change from ‘there’ to ‘thee’ (31.8) misses the connection between ‘there’ and ‘mine eye’. The subject of the ‘there’ is ‘mine eye’ (31.6). As in sonnets 26 and 27, the sense of looking into the ‘eye’, or even being an image within the eye, is crucial. ‘Their images...I view in thee’ (31.13) unequivocally expresses the sense of looking into the youth’s eyes. It is in the youth’s eyes that the Poet sees qualities he no longer sees in his own eye (‘mine eye’). The change is unwarranted.

    Sonnet 35:

    No more be grieved at that which thou hast done;
    Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
    Clouds and eclipses stain both Moon and Sun,
    And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
    All men make faults, and even I in this,
    Authorising thy trespass with compare,
    My self corrupting salving thy amiss,
    Excusing their sins more than their sins are:
    For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,
    Thy adverse party is thy Advocate,
    And ‘gainst my self a lawful plea commence,
    Such civil war is in my love and hate,
        That I an accessory needs must be,
        To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

            ‘Their’ occurs twice in line 8. The subject of ‘their’ is ‘All men’ (35.5). The Poet says that, as much as he forgives others ‘their sins’, he also forgives the young man ‘thy trespass’, ‘thy amiss’, and ‘thy sensual fault’. The sense of ‘compare’ (35.6) is crucial for the meaning of the sonnet. The substitution of ‘thy’ for ‘their’ destroys the original intent.
            The ‘their’ to ‘thy’ emendations in sonnet 35 are an indirect consequence of an ignorance of the significance of sonnet 14. The editors transpose their frustration with the original wording into a general scepticism toward the reliability and authenticity of Q.

    Sonnet 37:

    As a decrepit father takes delight,
    To see his active child do deeds of youth,
    So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite
    Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth.
    For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
    Or any of these all, or all, or more
    Intitled in their parts, do crowned sit,
    I make my love engrafted to this store:
    So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
    Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give,
    That I in thy abundance am sufficed,
    And by a part of all thy glory live:
        Look what is best, that best I wish in thee,
        This wish I have, then ten times happy me.

            The subject of ‘their’ (37.7) is the ‘beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit’ (37.5). The sense is that ‘any, all, or more’ (37.6) of these attributes are each ‘entitled’ in ‘their’ own right (‘parts’) to ‘crown’d sit’ on the youth’s head. The Poet takes his ‘comfort’ (37.4) from this fact but, significantly, makes his ‘love engrafted to this store’ (37.8), where ‘this store’ refers to the relationship of ‘father’ to ‘child’ (37.1-2). The word ‘whether’ (37.5) establishes the distinction. ‘Worth and truth’ (37.4) combine with the above attributes from line 5 and with ‘store’ (37.8) to provide echoes of sonnet 14, as well as echoes of sonnet 11 (11.5), a critical sonnet in the logic of the set.

    Sonnet 40:

    Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all,
    What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?
    No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call,
    All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more:
    Then if for my love, thou my love receivest,
    I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest,
    But yet be blamed, if thou this self deceivest
    By wilful taste of what thy self refusest.
    I do forgive thy robb’ry gentle thief
    Although thou steal thee all my poverty:
    And yet love knows it is a greater grief
    To bear love’s wrong, than hate’s known injury.
        Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,
        Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes.

            The editors change ‘this’ to ‘thy’ (40.7). The subject of the ‘this’ is ‘my love’ (40.5), or the Poet’s mature love. The ‘this’ echoes the ‘this more’ (40.4) which is the love the Poet has in excess of the youth’s immature love. ‘This more’ is the balance of the Poet’s mature love of which the immature youth wants to take ‘all’. The youth is challenged not to ‘deceive’ (40.7) the Poet (‘this self ’) by feigning maturity. He will be ‘blamed’ if he ‘wilfully tastes’ of the Poet’s mature ‘love’ (‘this more’) after ‘refusing’ it (40.8). Because the youth is an inalienable part of the mature Poet, ‘this more’ signifies the mature love of the Poet compared to the adolescent love of the youth. Hence the Poet’s warning that the youth will deceive him.
            The change from ‘this’ to ‘thy’ kills the identity of ‘this self ’ with the ‘this more’ of ‘my love’. The confusion arises in the minds of traditional commentators because they imagine that the ‘love’ in this sonnet is literally the Mistress. But she does not appear in the Master Mistress sequence until reference is made to her in the next two sonnets, 41 and 42.

    Sonnet 43:

    When I most wink then do mine eyes best see,
    For all the day they view things unrespected,
    But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
    And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
    Then thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
    How would thy shadow’s form, form happy show,
    To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
    When to un-seeing eyes thy shade shines so?
    How would (I say) mine eyes be blessed made,
    By looking on thee in the living day?
    When in dead night their fair imperfect shade,
    Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
        All days are nights to see till I see thee,
        And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

            The subject of ‘their’ (43.11) is the ‘mine eyes’ (43.9). Again sonnet 14 is being invoked. In sonnets 27 and 28 the power of thought or imagination could not give rise to anything but darkness to the ‘sightless’ mind. In sonnet 43 it is only when the Poet is asleep and dreaming (43.3) that the ‘shadow’ is transformed, reversing bright for dark and becoming a ‘shade’ that ‘shines so’ (43.8). The Poet asks, in the third quatrain, how night can now seem like day. In a direct reference to sonnets 27 and 28, he recalls that previously his tired ‘sightless eyes’ could only give ‘their fair imperfect shade’ (43.11). In those sonnets he could only see dark in darkness. As in sonnet 27, the change from ‘their’ to ‘thy’ in sonnet 43 is inconsistent with its meaning.

    Sonnet 45:

    The other two, slight air, and purging fire,
    Are both with thee, where ever I abide,
    The first my thought, the other my desire,
    These present absent with swift motion slide.
    For when these quicker Elements are gone
    In tender Embassy of love to thee,
    My life being made of four, with two alone,
    Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy.
    Until lives composition be recured,
    By those swift messengers returned from thee,
    Who even but now come back again assured,
    Of their fair health, recounting it to me.
        This told, I joy, but then no longer glad,
        I send them back again and straight grow sad.

            Sonnets 44 and 45 are a connected pair that consider the four Aristotelian elements, ‘earth, water, air and fire’. ‘Earth and water’ from sonnet 44 characterise the Poet’s mood whilst ‘air and fire’ from sonnet 45 characterise his ‘thought’ and ‘desire’ (45.3) that are with the youth. The ‘fair health’ of the ‘swift messengers’, or the returning ‘air and fire’, restores the Poet’s ‘melancholic’ ‘earth and water’ to the original ‘four’ elements (45.7). So the ‘their’ refers to the ‘swift messengers’ and not the youth. The change from ‘their’ to ‘thy’ in line 12 is inconsistent with the meaning of both sonnets. Some editors alter the punctuation of lines 11 and 12 to make it conform with the interference.

    Sonnet 46:

    Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war,
    How to divide the conquest of thy sight,
    Mine eye, my heart their picture’s sight would bar,
    My heart, mine eye the freedom of that right,
    My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie,
    (A closet never pierced with crystal eyes)
    But the defendant doth that plea deny,
    And says in him their fair appearance lies.
    To side this title is impanelled
    A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,
    And by their verdict is determined
    The clear eye’s moiety, and the dear heart’s part.
        As thus, mine eye’s due is their outward part,
        And my heart’s right, their inward love of heart.

            The editors make four changes from ‘their’ to ‘thy’ in sonnet 46. But the four ‘theirs’ have ‘thy sight’ (46.2) as their subject. The ‘theirs’ refer to both ‘eyes’ of the faculty of sight, as in the plural ‘crystal eyes’ (46.6).
            As in previous sonnets, ‘thy sight’ refers to the ‘thine eyes’ from sonnet 14. The ‘eyes’ are objects of sight to be seen through by the possessor and to be seen into by the observer. (The dynamic is captured in the ‘eye I eyed’ of sonnet 104, so misunderstood and disparaged by most editors.) The ‘eyes’ are also capable of forming ‘pictures’ (46.3) as in sonnet 47, which follows on from sonnet 46. Seeing, being seen into, and picturing, are all functions of ‘sight’.
            So, if the subject of ‘their’ in lines 3,8,13 and 14 is ‘thy sight’ (46.2) and ‘thy sight’ is the faculty of sight, then it follows that ‘their pictures sight’ is the picture generated by those ‘eyes’. It is this ‘picture’ that ‘my heart’would ‘bar’ ‘mine eye’ from seeing because the ‘heart’ claims that ‘thou’ (the ‘picture’ of ‘truth and beauty’ seen in ‘thine eyes’ from sonnet 14), lies within ‘him’ behind the eyes.
            By contrast the defendant, or ‘mine eye’, claims that ‘their fair appearance lies’ in ‘him’ because, turning the argument of the ‘crystal eyes’ around, the ‘constant stars’ have to be looked at to be seen into. The verdict, determined by ‘thoughts’ (46.10), is that ‘their outward part’, the ‘appearance’, belongs to the ‘clear’ eyes that see and that ‘their inward love’, that exists behind the eyes in the sanctuary of truth and beauty beholden to ‘store’, is the ‘heart’s right’.
            The focus of the sonnet is not the person of the youth (thy) but his ‘eyes’. The ‘mortal’ depth of meaning available in the eyes ‘sight’ is reduced, by the emendations from ‘their’ to ‘thy’, to a debate over the youth’s external ‘appearance’. Again most editors alter the punctuation. Commas, crucial to the original intent in Q are removed from lines 3 and 4.

    Sonnet 69:

    Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view,
    Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend:
    All tongues (the voice of souls) give thee that end,
    Uttering bare truth, even so as foes Commend.
    Their outward thus with outward praise is crowned,
    But those same tongues that give thee so thine own,
    In other accents do this praise confound
    By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.
    They look into the beauty of thy mind,
    And that in guess they measure by thy deeds,
    Then churls their thoughts (although their eies were kind)
    To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds,
        But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
        The soil is this, that thou dost common grow.

            The ‘their’ (69.5) has as its subject the phrase ‘those parts of thee’ (69.1). That is, the first words of the second quatrain refer to the first words of the first quatrain. ‘Their outward thus’ refers to ‘those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view’ and not to just the ‘thee’ of lines 1 and 3. The meaning of ‘eye’ (69.1) is expanded upon in lines 8 to 11 so that the ‘beauty’ (of thy mind) and the ‘truth’ measured ‘by thy deeds’ invokes the ideas expressed in sonnet 14.
            The alterations reveal the editors’ bias. They attempt to read the Sonnets as biography because they are ignorant of Shakespeare’s philosophy.

    Sonnet 70:

    That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
    For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair,
    The ornament of beauty is suspect,
    A Crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air.
    So thou be good, slander doth but approve,
    Their worth the greater being wooed of time,
    For Canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
    And thou present’st a pure unstained prime.
    Thou hast passed by the ambush of young days,
    Either not assailed, or victor being charged,
    Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise,
    To tie up envy, evermore enlarged,
        If some suspect of ill masked not thy show,
        Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.

            The subject of ‘their’ (70.6) is the ‘sweetest buds’ (70.7) (echoing the ‘ornament of beauty’ (70.3). Again some editors alter the punctuation. They remove the comma from the end of line 5 to the middle of line 6 and put a semi-colon at the end of line 6 to force the sonnet to conform to the emendations to ‘thy’. The reading presented here is consistent with the original punctuation.

    Sonnet 128:

    How oft when thou my music music playst,
    Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
    With thy sweet fingers when thou gently swayst,
    The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
    Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap,
    To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
    Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
    At the woods’ boldness by thee blushing stand.
    To be so tickled they would change their state,
    And situation with those dancing chips,
    O’er whom their fingers walk with gentle gait,
    Making dead wood more blest than living lips,
        Since saucy Jacks so happy are in this,
        Give them their fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

            In sonnet 128 ‘their’ is changed to ‘thy’ twice. The changes involve the phrase ‘their fingers’ (128.11,14). The confusion is over whom ‘their fingers’ belong to. The fingers playing the instrument are the Mistress’ fingers, but the ‘their’ refers to the ‘dancing chips’ (128.10), who are the ‘Jacks’ (128.5,13). That is, the ‘Jacks’ claim possession of the Mistress’fingers as they ‘kiss the tender inward of thy (her) hand’. So ‘their fingers’, the Mistress’ fingers that the ‘Jacks’ desire, ‘walk with gentle gait’over the ‘Jacks or dancing chips’. In the couplet the Poet instructs the Mistress to ‘give them (the Jacks) their fingers’ because he is only interested in ‘thy lips to kiss’. (Note the ‘Jacks’ are capitalised in Q to emphasise their role as the possessors of the Mistress’ fingers.)
            The editors accuse the 1609 compositors of mistaking two theirs for thys when typesetting sonnet 128, yet they find no fault with an earlier ‘thy’ (128.6) and another ‘their’ (128.9).


    The ‘their’ to ‘thy’ emendations are unnecessary and unwarranted as all the emended theirs have meaning within the sonnets in question. Significantly, the logic of sonnet 14 is crucial to correcting the emendations involving the eyes. The editors’ ignorance of the Sonnet philosophy and their tendency to read the Sonnets biographically in terms of a ‘young man’ or a ‘dark lady’ has led to overly simplistic and irrational emendations.

    Other emendations and changes

    The other emendations considered here are based loosely on John Kerrigan’s collations (Penguin 1986). Though Kerrigan rejects around 107 traditional changes he still needs 55 alterations (aside from changes to capitalisation or punctuation) for his reading of the Sonnets. So far 17 changes either from ‘their’ to ‘thy’ or similar changes have been considered. By considering a further 45 or so emendations the intention is to demonstrate that the number of significant errors is low and compares favourably with the textual and typesetting errors evident in many modern texts.

    Sonnet 12:

    When I do count the clock that tells the time,
    And see the brave day sunk in hideous night,
    When I behold the violet past prime,
    And sable curls or silver’d o’er with white:
    When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
    Which erst from heat did canopy the herd
    And Summers green all girded up in sheaves
    Born on the bier with white and bristly beard:
    Then of thy beauty do I question make
    That thou among the wastes of time must go,
    Since sweets and beauties do them-selves forsake,
    And die as fast as they see others grow,
        And nothing ‘gainst Times scythe can make defence
        Save breed to brave him, when he takes thee hence.

            The emendation is from ‘or’ to ‘all’ (12.4). The change is not warranted because ‘or’ has meanings of ‘formerly’, ‘before’, and ‘now’ (Shorter Oxford Dictionary). ‘Now’ particularly, is consistent with the temporal sense of the first quatrain. Both the previous images, ‘day sunk in hideous night’ and in ‘the violet past prime’, depict a transition from one time frame to another. In the imagery of line 4, sable or black hair is transformed with streaks of white to a silvery shade. The change from ‘or’ to ‘all’ introduces finality to the aging, out of keeping with the previous imagery. Neither can the presence of an ‘all’ in line 7 be used to argue for an ‘all’ in line 4. The second quatrain continues the idea of transition with images of autumn rather than winter. The interference with the meaning of the phrase goes against the sense of the quatrain and of the whole sonnet.
            Kerrigan’s collation for line 4 records a change from ‘or silver’d ore’ to ‘all silvered o’er’. But the only word in contention is the change from ‘or’ to ‘all’. The change from ‘silver’d ore’ to ‘silvered o’er’ is merely a change in spelling with the ‘e’ added to ‘silver’d’ and with ‘ore’ changed to ‘o’er’, a variant spelling found within the Sonnets.
            The listing of this change as a three-word error is of concern. In two other instances Kerrigan gives the impression that an ‘error’ involves 2 or 3 words when only a single word is emended. In sonnet 129 only one word (‘proud’ 129.11) is challenged, but the collation appears as a two-word error (‘proved, a’) with the comma also added. In sonnet 146 the three words ‘my sinful earth’ (146.2) are listed as a compositor’s mistake involving three adjacent words. By listing the emendation to sonnet 12 as a three-word error the impression of incompetence is enhanced. The exaggerated listings reveal Kerrigan’s determination to prove Q is riddled with faults. Yet the handful of genuine typesetting errors involve only parts of single words.

    Sonnet 13:

    O That you were your self, but love you are
    No longer yours, than you your self here live,
    Against this coming end you should prepare,
    And your sweet semblance to some other give.
    So should that beauty which you hold in lease
    Find no determination, then you were
    You self again after your self ’s decease,
    When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
    Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
    Which husbandry in honour might uphold,
    Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day
    And barren rage of death’s eternal cold?
        O none but unthrifts, dear my love you know,
        You had a Father, let your Son say so.

            The emendation is from ‘you’ to ‘your’ (13.7). The whole of sonnet 13 involves a play on ‘you’ and ‘your’. ‘O that you were your self, but love you are no longer yours, than you your self here live’, begins a dizzy interrelationship between yous and yours that ends with ‘You had a Father, let your Son say so’ (13.14). Only the third quatrain is exempt. In the context of the interplay, the ‘you self ’ and ‘your self ’s’ (13.7) shows the interdependence of the two selves. Sonnet 13 explores the interdependence of persons and persona that is part of the logic of the whole set. To amend ‘you’ to ‘your’ misses the point of the lively interchange.

    Sonnet 24:

    Mine eye hath played the painter and hath steeld,
    Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart,
    My body is the frame wherein ’tis held,
    And perspective it is best Painter’s art.
    For through the Painter must you see his skill,
    To find where your true Image pictur’d lies,
    Which in my bosom’s shop is hanging still,
    That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes:
    Now see what good-turns eyes for eies have done,
    Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
    Are windows to my breast, where-through the Sun
    Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee
        Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art
        They draw but what they see, know not the heart.

            The emendation of ‘steeld’ to ‘stell’d’ (24.1) is made principally on the basis of an apparent mis-rhyme with ‘held’ (24.3). As there are a significant number of mis-rhymes throughout the Sonnets, the change to ‘stell’d’ is unnecessary. The references to ‘form’(24.2) and ‘perspective’ (24.4) confirm the meaning of ‘steeld’ as ‘engraved with a steel tool or stylus’. Even though the editors admit that ‘steeld’ has meaning they persist with the change. To emend a word with valid meaning suggests an ulterior motive for making the emendation.

    Sonnet 25:

    Let those who are in favour with their stars,
    Of public honour and proud titles boast,
    Whilst I whom fortune of such triumph bars
    Unlooked for joy in that I honour most;
    Great Princes favourites their fair leaves spread,
    But as the Marigold at the sun’s eye,
    And in them-selves their pride lies buried,
    For at a frown they in their glory die.
    The painful warrior famoused for worth,
    After a thousand victories once foiled,
    Is from the book of honour razed quite,
    And all the rest forgot for which he toiled:
        Then happy I that love and am beloved
        Where I may not remove, nor be removed.

            Most editors emend ‘worth’ variously to ‘fight’ or ‘might’ (25.9). The emendations are driven by the desire to find a rhyme for ‘quite’ (25.11). Because any suggestion is speculative, maintaining the status quo is the sensible option. ‘Worth’ (25.9) does make sense in terms of ‘honour’ (24.11).
            As there are a significant number of mis-rhymes throughout the Sonnets, changing a word simply for the sake of rhyme is not a sufficient reason for emendation. In the 100 or so mis-rhymes for the modern ear commented on by Kerrigan, 75 per cent or so can be explained in terms of Elizabethan use. He calls the others ‘ambiguous’, ‘uncertain’, ‘imperfect’, or ‘inexact’, with 8 or so being altered or replaced to provide a perfect rhyme. But even if ‘worth’ is an error it should not be presumed the alternative must be a perfect rhyme.

    Sonnet 28:

    How can I then return in happy plight
    That am debarred the benefit of rest?
    When day’s oppression is not eased by night,
    But day by night and night by day oppressed.
    And each (though enemies to either’s reign)
    Do in consent shake hands to torture me,
    The one by toil, the other to complain
    How far I toil, still farther off from thee.
    I tell the Day to please him thou art bright,
    And do’st him grace when clouds do blot the heaven:
    So I flatter I the swart complexioned night,
    When sparkling stars twire not thou guil’st th’even.
        But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer,
        And night doth nightly make grief ’s length seem stronger.

            The emendation is from ‘guil’st’ to gild’st’ (28.12). In Q the line reads, when the ‘sparkling stars twire not thou guil’st th’even’. As argued in the comment on sonnet 27, the meaning of lines 11and 12 is consistent with the meaning of ‘guil’st’ as ‘beguile’. ‘Guil’st’ makes sense and involves wonderful suggestivity between ‘swart’, with its touch of malice, ‘twire’, to wink, and ‘guil’st’ in the sense of beguile. ‘Guilest’ has a strong ethical tone in keeping with the Sonnet logic. It contrasts with the sunset sentimentality of the editors’ ‘gild’st’. The change is unnecessary as ‘guil’st’ makes perfect sense. Although editors acknowledge the meaningfulness of ‘guil’st’ they still opt to interfere with the wording of Q.

    Sonnet 34:

    Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
    And make me travel forth without my cloak,
    To let base clouds o’er-take me in my way,
    Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke.
    ’Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
    To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face,
    For no man well of such a salve can speak,
    That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace:
    Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief,
    Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss,
    Th’offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
    To him that bears the strong offence’s loss.
        Ah but those tears are pearl which thy love sheeds,
        And they are rich, and ransom all ill deeds.

            The emendation is from ‘loss’ to ‘cross’ (34.12). Because of the unusual repetition of the word ‘loss’ at the ends of line 10 and 12 this seems a possible instance of a typesetting error. This view is supported by the occurrence of the ‘loss/cross’ pairing in sonnets 42 and 90. However, in a set of sonnets where the expected is challenged by idiosyncrasies such as a short sonnet of 12 lines in rhyming couplets, a long sonnet of fifteen lines, a rhyme across three lines, a sonnet in octosyllables, a line of 12 syllables, and 2 sonnets in a classical style, a repeated word in the rhyme scheme should not surprise. Though not every editor or commentator makes the change, a considerable amount of energy has been expended by the editors and commentators in suppressing Shakespeare’s consistent challenges to orthodoxy.

    Sonnet 41:

    Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits,
    When I am some-time absent from thy heart,
    Thy beauty, and thy years full well befits,
    For still temptation follows where thou art.
    Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won,
    Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed.
    And when a woman woes, what woman’s son,
    Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed.
    Aye me, but yet thou mightst my seat forbear,
    And chide thy beauty, and thy straying youth,
    Who lead thee in their riot even there
    Where thou art forced to break a two-fold truth:
        Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee,
        Thine by thy beauty being false to me.

            The emendation is from ‘woes’ to ‘woos’ (41.7). In Shakespeare’s poems and plays ‘woes’ is spelt variously as woes and wooes, and ‘woos’ as woes, wooes, and woos. In the Sonnet logic, the Mistress as female does not woo the male. Rather the young male needs to recover his logical relation to the Mistress. The Mistress and the Poet have misgivings over the idealised self interest with which the youth approaches the female. When the youth uses his beauty to ‘win’ or ‘assail’ the Mistress, she becomes ‘woeful’ because he uses his beauty for selfish ends. The youth, flush with self-assurance, will ‘prevail’ with the Mistress despite his ‘sourness’ at her misgivings. Hence the Poet ‘chides thy beauty, and thy straying youth’ because they lead to ‘riot’. The youth breaks a twofold truth: ‘hers’ because he presumes his beauty alone will tempt her, and ‘thine’ (or his own truth) because he does not heed the mature advice of the Poet. The editors’ presumption that ‘woes’ was intended to be ‘woos’ is contrary to the Sonnet logic.
            Confirmation of this reading is available from Troilus and Cressida. In the play, the word ‘woe’ has meanings both as ‘woe’ (2.2.1099) and ‘woo’ (3.1.1621). The editors justify their preference for ‘woo’ by referring to the adage ‘woo...won’ (3.2.1740-2). But in sonnet 41 the adage is inverted so that ‘won’ precedes ‘woes’. The editors note the inversion without noting the altered sense. Troilus and Cressida provides the correct reading of ‘woes’. Helen’s statement from Act 3, which repeats the language of lines 7 and 8 of sonnet 41, affirms that ‘to make a sweet Lady sad is a sour offence’ (3.1.1548). As the editors are ignorant of Shakespeare’s logic regarding the relation of the Mistress and youth their confusion is not surprising.
            The further alteration made by some editors from ‘he’ to ‘she’ (41.8) arises solely from the interpretation of ‘woes’ as ‘woos’. The third quatrain confirms the culpability of the ‘straying youth’ and the couplet confirms that the youth’s ‘beauty tempt(s)’ the woman and that ‘he’, the youth, was ‘false’ to the Poet. By altering ‘he’ to ‘she’ editors force a reading on the sonnet that is inconsistent with its logic. The result is a reading in which the woman is considered responsible, but that reading is contradicted by the couplet and the logic of the whole set.

    Sonnet 44:

    If the dull substance of my flesh was thought,
    Injurious distance should not stop my way,
    For then despite of space I would be brought,
    From limits far remote, where thou dost stay,
    No matter then although my foot did stand
    Upon the farthest earth removed from thee,
    For nimble thought can jump both sea and land,
    As soon as think the place where he would be.
    But ah, thought kills me that I am not thought
    To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
    But that so much of earth and water wrought,
    I must attend, times leisure with my moan.
        Receiving naughts by elements so slow,
        But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

            The emendation is from ‘naughts’ to ‘naught’ (44.13). To understand the meaning of ‘naughts’ it helps to recall that the two sonnets 44 and 45 develop a theme based on the four elements, earth, water, air and fire. The addition of the two elements from sonnet 44 (earth and water) to the two elements from sonnet 45 (air and fire) brings together the four elements of which the Poet’s ‘life is made’ (45.7).
            The arithmetic relations in the two sonnets are crucial for the meaning of the plural ‘naughts’. ‘Earth and water’, as ‘the elements so slow’, effectively give the Poet nothing. He gets a score of two ‘naughts’ for his ‘moan(s)’ and ‘tears’, hence the plural. Even editors who make the emendation admit a sense for ‘naughts’. Blakemore Evans, in the 1996 Cambridge Sonnets, notes that naughts means ‘nothing or a worthless thing’ and that there is the possibility of a play on naught = 0, with a sexual pun on the teardrops of line 14. The emendation is not necessary.

    Sonnet 46:

    Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war,
    How to divide the conquest of thy sight,
    Mine eye, my heart their picture’s sight would bar,
    My heart, mine eye the freedom of that right,
    My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie,
    (A closet never pierced with crystal eyes)
    But the defendant doth that plea deny,
    And says in him their fair appearance lies.
    To side this title is impanelled
    A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,
    And by their verdict is determined
    The clear eye’s moiety, and the dear heart’s part.
        As thus, mine eye’s due is their outward part,
        And my heart’s right, their inward love of heart.

            The emendation is from ‘side’ to ‘cide’ (46.9). The change is unnecessary as ‘side’ makes sense as it stands. The meaning from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary is, ironically from Shakespeare, and reads ‘to assign to one of two sides or parties (Shak)’. If a change was made for the sake of modern usage it would not be an emendation but a change in spelling.

    Sonnet 47:

    Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took,
    And each doth good turns now unto the other,
    When that mine eye is famished for a look,
    Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother;
    With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast,
    And to the painted banquet bids my heart:
    Another time mine eye is my heart’s guest,
    And in his thoughts of love doth share a part.
    So either by thy picture or my love,
    Thy self away, are present still with me,
    For thou nor farther than my thoughts canst move,
    And I am still with them and they with thee.
        Or if they sleep, thy picture in my sight
        Awakes my heart, to heart’s and eye’s delight.

            The ‘nor’ (47.11) is emended to ‘no’ or ‘not’. With ‘either…or’occurring in line 9, the ‘nor’ continues the comparative process, which is implied despite the absence of ‘neither’. The ‘nor’ is consistent with the Sonnet logic where the youth is both a person and a persona of the Poet. In line 10 the youth is both ‘away and present still with me’. He is neither here ‘nor farther from my thoughts’. The emendation from ‘nor’ to ‘no’ or ‘not’ ignores the apparent paradox of the youth being here and there.

    Sonnet 50:

    How heavy do I journey on the way,
    When what I seek (my weary travel’s end)
    Doth teach that ease and that repose to say
    Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend.
    The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
    Plods duly on, to bear that weight in me,
    As if by some instinct the wretch did know
    His rider loved not speed being made from thee:
    The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,
    That some-times anger thrusts into his hide,
    Which heavily he answers with a groan,
    More sharp to me than spurring to his side,
        For that same groan doth put this in my mind,
        My grief lies onward and my joy behind.

            The emendation is from ‘duly’ to ‘dully’. The ‘duly’ (50.6) makes sense. It is not an error.

    Sonnet 54:

    Oh how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
    By that sweet ornament which truth doth give,
    The Rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
    For that sweet odour, which doth in it live:
    The Canker blooms have full as deep a dye,
    As the perfumed tincture of the Roses,
    Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly,
    When summers breath their masked buds discloses:
    But for their virtue only is their show,
    They live unwooed, and unrespected fade,
    Die to themselves. Sweet Roses do not so,
    Of their sweet deaths, are sweetest odours made:
        And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
        When that shall vade, by verse distils your truth.

            The emendation is from ‘by’ to ‘my’ (54.14). In the Sonnet logic truth is always associated with saying or any form of propositional language. Hence the youth’s ‘truth’ is distilled ‘by’ verse. ‘Truth’ is distilled ‘by verse’ just as ‘sweetest odours’ are made from the sweet death of the ‘Roses’. The change to ‘my’ reads personality into the sonnet, revealing an ignorance of the logic.
            In the Sonnets, ‘verse’ or the process of ‘saying’ (truth) produces only an image of the youth. Hence the comparison between ‘verse’ and the ‘odour’ from the dead ‘Rose’. Immortality through verse is secondary to that offered through the ‘increase’ of the rosebud. The sonnet distinguishes between ‘verse’ that ignores natural logic (‘Canker blooms’) and ‘verse’ that affirms the youth’s natural potential (‘Sweet Roses’). The natural logic of the Sonnets, where ‘increase’ is prior to ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’, gives substance to Shakespeare’s art. His sonnets distil the logical relation between verse and the natural world.

    Sonnet 55:

    Not marble, nor the guilded monument,
    Of Princes shall out-live this powerful rhyme,
    But you shall shine more bright in these contents
    Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
    When wasteful war shall Statues overturn,
    And broils root out the work of masonry,
    Nor Mars his sword, nor wars quick fire shall burn:
    The living record of your memory.
    ’Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity
    Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room,
    Even in the eyes of all posterity
    That wear this world out to the ending doom.
        So till the judgement that your self arise,
        You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

            The emendation is from ‘monument’to ‘monuments’(55.1). The change is not necessary for the sake of rhyme as the rhyme scheme of the Sonnets does not demand consistency. A similar mis-rhyme occurs between ‘lies’and ‘eye’ in the couplet of sonnet 153, and in sonnets 81 and 107 ‘monument’ occurs in the singular in association with the Poet’s ‘rime’ or ‘verse’. Ironically, Shakespeare has placed the line ‘Princes shall (not) outlive this powerful rhyme’ between the lines ending in ‘monument’ and ‘contents’. The Poet argues in the 9 alien Poet sonnets that their facility in style and rhyme is inadequate before his ability to articulate the logical content of his ‘rhyme’ or poetry. The deliberate mis-rhyme of ‘monument’ and ‘contents’ is consistent with the Poet’s appreciation that the depth of meaning in his verse is based on more than a tidy rhyme scheme.

    Sonnet 57:

    Being your slave what should I do but tend,
    Upon the hours, and times of your desire?
    I have no precious time at all to spend;
    Nor services to do till you require.
    Nor dare I chide the world without end hour,
    Whilst I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you,
    Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,
    When you have bid your servant once adieu.
    Nor dare I question with my jealous thought,
    Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
    But like a sad slave stay and think of nought
    Save where you are, how happy you make those.
        So true a fool is love, that in your Will,
        (Though you do anything) he thinks no ill.

            The emendation is from ‘Will’ to ‘will’ (57.13). The decapitalising of ‘Will’, because the context does not support a reference to the person of William Shakespeare, ignores the rich range of meanings that are associated with the word ‘Will’, particularly in sonnets 135 and 136. ‘Will’ appears as a persona of the author, as a personification of the will, and as the male member.

    Sonnet 59:

    If there be nothing new, but that which is,
    Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
    Which labouring for invention bear amiss
    The second burthen of a former child?
    Oh that record could with a back-ward look,
    Even of five hundreth courses of the Sun,
    Show me your image in some antique book,
    Since mind at first in character was done.
    That I might see what the old world could say,
    To this composed wonder of your frame,
    Whether we are mended, or where better they,
    Or whether revolution be the same.
        Oh sure I am the wits of former days,
        To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

            The emendation is from ‘where’ to ‘whether’ (59.11). The emendation means that the word ‘whether’ is repeated three times in lines 11 and 12. The emendation to ‘whether’ invites a comparison between the ‘composed wonder of your frame’ (59.10) that beguiles ‘our brains’ (59.2) and ‘your image in some antique book’. It asks if the youth’s ‘frame’ seems ‘mended’ or is an improvement on the ‘antique image’. The original ‘where’ on the other hand, though referring to the same ‘image’ in the ‘antique book’, asks ‘where’ in the ‘image’ is there evidence that ‘they’ might have been ‘better’ in ‘former days’ (59.12). The doubt as to ‘whether we are mended’ is followed by the question as to ‘where’ exactly ‘they’were ‘better’.
            The second ‘whether’ (59.12) then asks if anything has really changed (‘whether revolution be the same’). Shakespeare’s Wittgensteinian expression of certainty is completely undermined by the emendation of ‘where’. The editors’ decision to have three whether’s leads instead to an excessive expression of doubt.

    Sonnet 65:

    Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
    But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
    How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
    Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
    O how shall summer’s honey breath hold out,
    Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,
    When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
    Nor gates of steel so strong but time decays?
    O fearful meditation, where alack,
    Shall time’s best Jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
    Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,
    Or who his spoil or beauty can forbid?
        O none, unless this miracle have might,
        That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

            The emendation is from ‘or’ to ‘of ’ (65.12). The alteration to ‘of ’ destroys the sense of comparison between ‘spoil’ and ‘beauty’. While the emendation simplifies the meaning of the line, it also takes away the degree of complexity required for an appreciation of the meaning of the couplet. More importantly, it ignores the logic of the truth dynamic in the Sonnets. The logic of the sonnets to the youth determines that his beauty cannot survive the ravages of time and that the Poet’s verse can give him only a limited immortality.
            The intentional irony of the couplet captures the impasse. If the Poet’s love can shine bright in black ink then a ‘miracle’ is possible. But the youth sequence has been devoted to demonstrating the illogicality of such a possibility. Hence, whatever ‘strong hand’ holds back the ‘swift foot’ of time, it cannot ‘forbid’ the youth’s ‘spoil’ or ‘forbid’ his ‘beauty’. The emendation is based on a reading of the Sonnets contrary to their inherent logic.

    Sonnet 67:

    Ah wherefore with infection should he live,
    And with his presence grace impiety,
    That sin by him advantage should achieve,
    And lace itself with his society?
    Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
    And steal dead seeing of his living hue?
    Why should poor beauty indirectly seek,
    Roses of shadow, since his Rose is true?
    Why should he live, now nature bankrupt is,
    Beggared of blood to blush through lively veins,
    For she hath no exchequer now but his,
    And proud of many, lives upon his gains?
        O him she stores, to show what wealth she had,
        In days long since, before these last so bad.

            The first emendation is from ‘seeing’ to ‘seeming’ (67.6). The role of the eyes in the Sonnet logic determines that when ‘false painting’ is compared to the youth’s ‘living hue’ it is as if it steals the possibility of ‘seeing’ from the ‘dead’. Not all editors make the change but Kerrigan does without explanation. When a word like ‘sinne’ is emended to ‘sin’ or ‘atchive’ to ‘achieve’ or ‘howers’ to ‘hours’ there is no change in meaning, merely a change in spelling. But when words are altered in meaning, especially when the original is full of meaning, the change is presumptuous at best.
            The second emendation is from ‘proud’ to ‘priv’d’ (67.12). While Kerrigan makes the change, most editors retain ‘proud’. The youth’s elemental ‘nature’, ‘she’, who is the result of the pride of many blushing through ‘lively veins’now ‘lives upon his gains’ or his genealogical potential. The sexual pun on ‘proud’ and ‘blood to blush’ emphasises the logic of increase, which the youth refuses to accept. If he denies natural logic ‘she’, his natural potential, will make his ideal beauty bankrupt. The couplet confirms the potential he has in the ‘store of wealth’ (increase) from ‘days long since’. ‘Proud’ has rich meaning in the context of sonnets 67 and 68 and in Shakespeare’s logic. The emendation from ‘proud’ to ‘priv’d’ changes the meaning around. Where ‘proud’ emphasises the youth’s sexual connection to his forbears, ‘priv’d’ suggests that nature, deprived of the blood of others, lives ghoulishly upon him.
            The third change is to the lower case ‘n’ for ‘nature’ in sonnet 67 and the upper case ‘N’ for ‘Nature’ in sonnet 68. Most editors do not observe the distinction. They either capitalise both words or decapitalise both. This is not an emendation in the strict sense where the meaning of a word is changed. It is an example, though, of the consequences of interfering with the capitals of words in Q. Sonnets 67 and 68 are joined in a single argument by ‘thus’. The theme addressed in both is the logical relation of the youth to the natural world. He is reminded of his relationship to ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’ through ‘store’ (referring to increase from sonnet 14). For the purposes of the argument, ‘nature’ and ‘Nature’ are distinguished. This is because ‘Nature’ in the couplet of sonnet 68 is ‘Nature’ at large that stores ‘him as for a show false Art what beauty was of yore’. By contrast the ‘nature’ of sonnet 67 is ‘his’ ‘nature’ that is ‘bankrupt’ because he has not understood the significance of ‘store’ (or ‘increase’). Only by ‘increase’was beauty made in the past and only by ‘increase’ will the youth persist. In both sonnets youth’s ideal beauty is the source of ‘infection’ and ‘sin’ or falseness and deception. His ‘bankrupt nature’ is living proof he is at odds with the logic of ‘Nature’.
            The three changes to sonnet 67 (and the alteration of punctuation to support those changes) show how desperate editors are to make it conform to their preconceptions.

    Sonnet 69:

    Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view,
    Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend:
    All tongues (the voice of souls) give thee that due,
    Uttering bare truth, even so as foes Commend.
    Their outward thus with outward praise is crowned,
    But those same tongues that give thee so thine own,
    In other accents do this praise confound
    By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.
    They look into the beauty of thy mind,
    And that in guess they measure by thy deeds,
    Then churls their thoughts (although their eies were kind)
    To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds,
        But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
        The soil is this, that thou dost common grow.

            The change is from ‘end’ to ‘due’ (69.3). The correction to ‘due’ is reasonable because ‘end’ is a believable compositor’s error that results from an inversion of ‘u’ and the interchange of the ‘d’ and ‘e’. There are a number of examples in Q (and the plays) of the ‘n’ or ‘u’ being mistakenly inverted by typesetters. Even though ‘end’ and ‘due’ are different words with different meanings, this is merely a typesetting mistake involving the same letters.

    Sonnet 76:

    Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
    So far from variation or quick change?
    Why with the time do I not glance aside
    To new found methods, and to compounds strange?
    Why write I still all one, ever the same,
    And keep invention in a noted weed,
    That every word doth almost tell my name,
    Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
    O know sweet love I always write of you,
    And you and love are still my argument:
    So all my best is dressing old words new,
    Spending again what is already spent:
        For as the Sun is daily new and old,
        So is my love still telling what is told.

            The emendation is from ‘fel’ to ‘tell’ or ‘sell’ (76.7). This seems to be a genuine error. The ‘f ’ in Q gives ‘fel’, which doesn’t seem to have the sense required. The change to ‘tel’ or ‘tell’ or even ‘sell’ (in agreement with spending and spent in line 12) makes better sense and involves a believable typesetting error of misplacing ‘f ’ for a ‘t’ (or possibly a long ‘s’).

    Sonnet 77:

    Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties were,
    Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste,
    The vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear,
    And of this book, this learning mayst thou taste.
    The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show,
    Of mouthed graves will give thee memory,
    Thou by thy dials shady stealth mayst know,
    Times thievish progress to eternity.
    Look what thy memory cannot contain,
    Commit to these waste blacks, and thou shalt find
    Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain,
    To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
        These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
        Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book.

            The change from ‘were’ to ‘wear’ is not a true emendation as the words ‘were’ and ‘wear’ are interchangeable in the Sonnets and plays. The modern ‘wear’ is spelt both as ‘weare’ and ‘were’ in Q (sonnets 15 and 55). However, ‘were’ in its modern meaning is also spelt as ‘weare’ in Q (sonnets 127 and 140). The meaning of ‘were’ in sonnet 77 in Q is somewhat ambiguous, with both ‘time’ and ‘waste’ occurring in the octet. If the word ‘were’was meant to reflect this doubled theme then the change to the modern ‘wear’ by the editors removes the ambiguity. The editors change ‘were’ to ‘wear’ (77.3) but leave the mis-rhyme to modern ears of ‘were’ and ‘near’ in sonnet 140. ‘Were’ is consistent with both the double meaning in the sonnet available to the Elizabethan ear and the frequent mis-rhymes in the Sonnets.
            The second emendation is from ‘blacks’ to ‘blanks’ (77.10). The occurrence of ‘black lines’ in sonnet 63 and ‘black ink’ in sonnet 65 suggests the ‘waste blacks’ are the words or ideas the youth has entrusted to eternal ‘memory’. But in reality ‘mouthed graves’ await him if he ‘wastes minutes’ rather than ‘recommit’ his wasted thoughts to the Poet’s logic. Sonnet 77 is the last sonnet before the 9 alien Poet sonnets, which take idealistic stylists and rhymers to task for ignoring the Poet’s natural logic. Fittingly, in the couplet of sonnet 77, the youth is pre-warned in the language of the increase argument to ‘nurse the children from his brain’ that will enrich his ‘book’. Only editors who do not appreciate the Sonnet logic need the emendation.

    Sonnet 90:

    Then hate me when thou wilt, if ever, now,
    Now while the world is bent my deeds to cross,
    Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow.
    And do not drop in for an after loss:
    Ah do not, when my heart has scaped this sorrow,
    Come in rearward of a conquered woe,
    Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,
    To linger out a purposed over-throw.
    If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
    When other petty griefs have done their spite,
    But in the onset come, so shall I taste
    At first the worst of fortunes might.
        And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
        Compared with loss of thee, will not seem so.

            The emendation from ‘stall’ to ‘shall’ in line 11 seems warranted. ‘Stall’ makes no sense in the context. With four ‘st’ combinations in the surrounding lines the potential for error is understandable.

    Sonnet 99:

    The forward violet thus did I chide,
    Sweet thief whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells
    If not from my love’s breath, the purple pride,
    Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells?
    In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly died,
    The Lily I condemned for thy hand,
    And buds of marjoram had stolen thy hair,
    The Roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
    Our blushing shame, an other white despair:
    A third nor red, nor white, had stolen of both,
    And to his robb’ry had annexed thy breath,
    But for his theft in pride of all his growth
    A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
        More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,
        But sweet, or culler it had stol’n from thee.

            The emendation is from ‘our’ to ‘one’ (99.9). The change from ‘our’ to ‘one’ over-simplifies the meaning of lines 9 and 10. It reduces the sense of personal responsibility and mutual culpability associated with ‘our’ to a process of enumeration from one to three. When it is appreciated that the 15 lines of sonnet 99 provide a reference to 1599, the date of publication of The Passionate Pilgrim in which sonnets of Shakespeare’s were pirated, the significance of the ‘our’ comes clear. As in sonnet 112, sonnet 99 accuses a protagonist of offending the Poet and youth. The Poet is identified as ‘our blushing shame’, the youth as ‘an other white despair’ and the thief as ‘the third, nor red nor white’. The ‘our’ makes rich sense in Q.
            Some editors have altered the original punctuation to make the sonnet more consistent with the changes. They add inverted commas over lines 2 to 5 in place of other punctuation. This alters the meaning further down the sonnet with a full colon at the end of line 9 replacing a semi-colon to make the change to ‘one’ and its relation to ‘another’ and ‘three’ seem more numerical.

    Sonnet 101:

    Oh truant Muse what shall be thy amends,
    For thy neglect of truth in beauty died?
    Both truth and beauty on my love depends:
    So dost thou too, and therein dignified:
    Make answer Muse, wilt thou not haply say,
    Truth needs no colour with his colour fixed,
    Beauty no pencil, beauty’s truth to lay:
    But best is best, if never intermixed.
    Because he needs no praise, wilt thou be dumb?
    Excuse not silence so, for’t lies in thee,
    To make him much out-live a gilded tomb:
    And to be praised of ages yet to be.
        Then do thy office Muse, I teach thee how,
        To make him seem long hence, as he shows now.

            The emendation is from ‘di’d’ to ‘dyed’ (101.2). Sonnet 101 is the last of seven occasions in which the interrelation between truth and beauty from sonnet 14 is considered in the youth sequence. The ‘neglect of truth in beauty di’d’ recalls line 14 of sonnet 14 where ‘Thy end is Truth’s and Beauty’s doom and date’. Then, in line 3 of sonnet 101, the Poet reiterates that ‘both truth and beauty on my love depends’. The sense of finality from sonnet 14 and the repetition of that finality in the first quatrain of sonnet 101 leaves no doubt that Shakespeare intended the word to be ‘died’. The mention of ‘colour fixed’ (101.6) is not a sufficient reason for making ‘di’d’ into ‘dyed’. Sonnet 54 provides a precedent in which both meanings of ‘die’ are used in one sonnet. The editors interfere because they are ignorant of Shakespeare’s philosophy and particularly of the significance of sonnet 14.

    Sonnet 106:

    When in the Chronicle of wasted time,
    I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
    And beauty making beautiful old rhyme,
    In praise of Ladies dead, and lovely Knights,
    Then in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
    Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
    I see their antique Pen would have expressed,
    Even such a beauty as you master now.
    So all their praises are but prophecies
    Of this our time, all you prefiguring,
    And for they looked but with divining eyes,
    They had not still enough your worth to sing:
        For we which now behold these present days,
        Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.

            The emendation is from ‘still’ to ‘skill’ (106.12). ‘Not still enough’ refers to the inadequacy of the ‘divining eyes’ to capture the ‘worth’ of the youth. In the Master Mistress sequence the Poet has consistently argued (particularly sonnet 14) that astrology is not the means by which he evaluates the worth of youth. Youth’s worth is based on the logic of increase and its relation to his ‘eyes’. The difference between poetry and increase means that, though the ‘descriptions’ of old ‘mastered’ the looks of the youth, they are not a substitute for his living potential. The youth’s true worth cannot be captured by ‘Pen’ or ‘rhyme’.

            In contrast ‘skill’ implies the ancients lacked only adequate divining skill to capture the worth of the youth. ‘Still’ confirms that even if they had those skills they would ‘still’ not be enough to appreciate the Poet’s understanding of natural logic. The presence of ‘skill’ in seventeenth century versions of sonnet 106, in which there are also other differences, suggest that Shakespeare modified the sonnet before publication to more exactly express his logic.

    Sonnet 111:

    O for my sake do you wish fortune chide,
    The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
    That did not better for my life provide,
    Than public means which public manners breeds.
    Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
    And almost thence my nature is subdued
    To what it works in, like the Dyers hand,
    Pity me then, and wish I were renewed,
    Whilst like a willing patient I will drink,
    Potions of Eisel ’gainst my strong infection,
    No bitterness that I will bitter think,
    Nor double penance to correct correction.
        Pity me then dear friend, and I assure ye,
        Even that your pity is enough to cure me.

            The emendation is from ‘wish’ to ‘with’ (111.1). The emendation creates the impression that the Mistress will be chided ‘with’ fortune or bad luck, a meaning contrary to the Sonnet logic. Rather, ‘do you wish fortune chide, the guilty goddess of my harmful deeds’ questions the propriety to the youth in wanting to blame the goddess (Nature) for the Poet’s abuses. (Stephen Booth retracts the emendation in the most recent edition of his Shakespeare’s Sonnets.)

    Sonnet 112:

    Your love and pity doth th’impression fill,
    Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow,
    For what care I who calls me well or ill,
    So you o’er-greene my bad, my good allow?
    You are my All the world, and I must strive,
    To know my shames and praises from your tongue,
    None else to me, nor I to none alive
    That my steeled sense or changes right or wrong,
    In so profound Abysm I throw all care
    Of others voices, that my Adders sense,
    To critic and to flatterer stopped are:
    Mark how with my neglect I do dispense.
        You are so strongly in my purpose bred,
        That all the world besides me thinks y’are dead.

            The emendation is from ‘y’are’ to ‘they’re’ (112.14). Not all editors make the change. The Master Mistress, as a persona of the Poet, might seem dead to the world but the Poet states his awareness that logically his youthful days can never be forgotten. The change to ‘they’re’ turns the meaning around.

    Sonnet 113:

    Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind,
    And that which governs me to go about,
    Doth part his function, and is partly blind,
    Seems seeing, but effectually is out:
    For it no form delivers to the heart
    Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth lack,
    Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
    Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch:
    For if it see the rudest or gentlest sight,
    The most sweet-savour or deformed’st creature,
    The mountain, or the sea, the day, or night:
    The Crow, or Dove, it shapes them to your feature.
        Incapable of more replete, with you,
        My most true mind thus maketh mine untrue.

            The first emendation is from ‘lack’ to ‘latch’ (113.6). ‘Lack’ is changed to ‘latch’ to create a perfect rhyme with ‘catch’ (113.8). But it has already been observed a number of times that Q does not demand perfect rhymes on every occasion. The use of the word ‘lack’ is consistent with Q’s acceptance of occasional mis-rhyme.
            Shakespeare’s decision to use ‘lack’ is based on the meaning of the sonnet in relation to the Sonnet logic. The substitution of ‘latch’ creates a meaning at odds with the logic. ‘Lack’ refers to the ‘lack’ of a capacity to see and record ‘forms’ in the depths of the mind or ‘heart’ as a result of the absence from the youth. This means that ‘mine eye’ cannot ‘deliver to the heart’ images or ‘forms’ of ‘bird, or flower, or shape’ because the youth, though physically absent, has so filled the Poet’s ‘heart’ that he is ‘incapable’ (113.13) of seeing anything else (‘seems seeing’, 113.4). This is because the ‘heart’ ‘shapes’ the ‘forms’ the Poet’s eye ‘sees’ to the young man’s ‘features’. The logic of ‘seeing’ is that introduced in sonnet 14.
            ‘Latch’ has the opposite meaning in which the ‘forms’ that are seen are ‘latched’ to the ‘heart’. This is in contradiction with the rest of the sonnet where it states that ‘his’ (the ‘heart’s’) ‘quick objects’ and ‘visions’ (all the images from the third quatrain) are neither given to the ‘mind’ nor caught in the ‘heart’ without the ‘heart’ shaping ‘them to your feature’ (113.12). It is the ‘heart’ that ‘governs me to go about’ (113.2) and does ‘part his (the heart’s) function and is partly blind’ (113.3). It is partly blind because it will not receive images from ‘mine eye’ in the youth’s absence but it does do ‘part his function’ because it shapes those ‘forms’ it should be capable of seeing, into the features of the youth. In this way the Poet’s ‘heart’, which is his ‘most true mind’ deep inside his body, makes his own mind (‘mine’, 113.14) seem untrue. The youth has taken over his heart. The change to ‘latch’ is against the meaning of the whole sonnet. The editors also change the punctuation at the end of line 6. The interference results in an illogical reading of the sonnet.
            The second change is from ‘mine’ to ‘mind’s eye’ (or some variant) in line 14. Some editors let the ‘mine’ stand. ‘Mine’ derives its meaning from the understanding of ‘mine eye’, ‘eye’, ‘sight’, and ‘mind’ sanctioned by sonnet 14. Sonnet 113 is about the relationship of ‘eye’ to ‘mind’ and what is ‘true’ or ‘untrue’ (113.14). So, even in the physical absence of the youth, the ‘heart’ is unaffected by the ‘forms’of the outside world because the youth has taken over the Poet’s ‘heart’. He obstructs the Poet’s capacity to accept the world at face value. ‘Replete’ with the features of the youth (my most true mind) the Poet’s own mind (mine) is inadequate or ‘untrue’. Again the emendations give rise to readings that are inconsistent with the content of the sonnet and the set of Sonnets.

    Sonnet 126:

    O Thou my lovely Boy who in thy power,
    ost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle, hour:
    Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st,
    Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow’st.
    If Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)
    As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,
    She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill,
    May time disgrace and wretched minute kill.
    Yet fear her O thou minion of her pleasure,
    She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!
    Her Audit (though delayed) answered must be,
    And her Quietus is to render thee.
        (                                                                 )
        (                                                                 )

            The emendation is from ‘minute’ to ‘minutes’ (126.8). There is no need to pluralise ‘minute’ as it makes sense in the singular. ‘Nature’may not only disgrace ‘time’ but also ‘kill’ a ‘wretched minute’. The change to ‘wretched minutes kill’ implies that Nature either kills an indeterminate number of minutes or simply passes the time of day. But Nature kills the concept of time rather than a period of time. Kerrigan not only changes ‘minute’ he also adds capital Ts to Q’s ‘times’ and ‘time’. Kerrigan imagines ‘Nature is in debt to Time’ (p. 63). Rather, the ‘lovely boy’ has time ‘in (his) power’ and ‘Nature’ ‘will pluck (him) back’ and ‘may time disgrace’. ‘Nature’ is the ‘sovereign mistress’ over the ‘boy’ and ‘time’. ‘Nature’ renders ‘her Audit’, as predicted in sonnet 4 (where ‘Nature’ and ‘Audit’ are introduced). Ignorant of the Sonnet logic, editors like Kerrigan misread sonnet 126 out of an inappropriate paradigm.

    Sonnet 127:

    In the old age black was not counted fair,
    Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name:
    But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
    And Beauty slandered with a bastard shame,
    For since each hand has put on Nature’s power,
    Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
    Sweet beauty hath no name no holy bower,
    But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
    Therefore my Mistress’ eyes are Raven black,
    Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,
    At such who not born fair no beauty lack,
    Slandering Creation with a false esteem,
        Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
        That every tongue says beauty should look so.

            Kerrigan’s emendation is from ‘eyes’ to ‘brows’ (127.10). This is a classic illustration of the sort of interference the Sonnets have been subjected to out of ignorance of sonnet 14. It is simply unwarranted. Other editors, including Booth, do not make the change.

    Sonnet 129:

    Th’expense of Spirit in a waste of shame
    Is lust in action, and till action, lust
    Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody full of blame,
    Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
    Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight,
    Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
    Past reason hated as a swallowed bait,
    On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
    Made In pursuit and in possession so,
    Had, having, and in quest, to have extreme,
    A bliss in proof and proud and very woe,
    Before a joy proposed behind a dream,
        All this the world well knows yet none knows well,
        To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

            Most editors remove the capital ‘S’ from the word ‘Spirit’ (129.1). This is less an emendation and more an interference with Q’s capitals. The editors ignore the role of sonnet 129 as critical of the institution of the Church, which puts so much faith in an imaginary ‘heaven’ (129.14) that it becomes a cruel ‘hell’ on earth. Shakespeare’s experience of institutionalised excess could be the basis of his uncompromising statement.
            Not all sonnets have capitalised words but most of those that do either have capitalised proper names or use capitalisation as a way of emphasising words and themes. ‘Time’ and ‘Nature’ occur as many times capitalised as uncapitalised. The ‘Muse’ (17 times), ‘Rose’ (13 times), and ‘Poet’ (6 times) are capitalised whenever they appear in the Sonnets. ‘Muse’ is distributed somewhat evenly throughout the first sequence and ‘Rose’ occurs throughout the whole set of Sonnets.
            In a further emendation the word ‘made’ is emended to ‘mad’ (129.9). The phrase ‘make the taker mad’ from line 8 is carried over into line 10 which then reads ‘Made (mad) In pursuit and (made mad) in possession so’. The ‘mad’is silent but strongly implied from the line above. The other possibility is that ‘made’ is a variant of ‘madde’ or ‘madnesse’ as in sonnet 140. If that was the case then the emendation to ‘mad’would be merely a change in spelling. The two possibilities suggests this is not an error.
            The third emendation is from ‘proud’ to ‘proved’ (129.11). In a sonnet where every joy has its corresponding sorrow this line is no exception. It moves from ‘bliss in proof ’ to being ‘proud’ and then succumbing to ‘woe’. The emendation removes the potential sexual allusion in ‘proud’and reduces the three-part rhythm in the line to a two-part rhythm in a sonnet in which at least two of the lines have a greater complexity. The line is meaningful in Q and does not require interference.

    Sonnet 132:

    Thine eyes I love, and they as pitying me,
    Knowing thy heart torment me with disdain,
    Have put on black, and loving mourners be,
    Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain,
    And truly not the morning Sun of Heaven
    Better becomes the gray cheeks of th’East,
    Nor that full Star that ushers in the Eaven
    Doth half that glory to the sober West
    As those two morning eyes become thy face:
    O let it then as well beseem thy heart
    To mourn for me since mourning doth thee grace,
    And suit thy pity like in every part.
        Then will I swear beauty her self is black,
        And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

            The emendation is from ‘morning’ to ‘mourning’ (132.5). ‘Morning’ first appears in line 5 in reference to the eye of the heavens, the sun. The image is transferred to the Mistress’ ‘eyes’ (132.9). This is consistent with the role of the eyes in the Sonnet logic. The Mistress’ eyes are the basis on which the Poet weighs his ‘love’. His desire to return to her is met with pity, which he recognises as his due. Her ‘morning eyes’ are metaphorically suns that better become the grey cheek of the East. They promise the Poet a maturity beyond his youthful ‘pain’.

    Sonnet 136:

    If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
    Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
    And will thy soul knows is admitted there,
    Thus far for love, my love-suit sweet fulfill.
    Will, will fulfill the treasure of thy love,
    I fill it with wills, and my will one,
    In things of great receipt with ease we prove,
    Among a number one is reckon’d none.
    Then in the number let me pass untold,
    Though in thy stores account I one must be,
    For nothing hold me so it please thee hold,
    That nothing me, a some-thing sweet to thee.
        Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
        And then thou lovest me for my name is Will.

            The emendation is from ‘I’ to ‘Ay’ (136.6). The ‘I’ in Q has its reference in ‘I was thy Will’ (136.2). The change to ‘Ay’makes a mockery of that meaning and the wonderful play on ‘I’, ‘one’, and ‘Will’ throughout the sonnet. The editors alter the punctuation to make it conform to the alteration by inserting a comma after ‘Ay’. While ‘I’ frequently means ‘Ay’ in the poems and plays, the simplistic emendation here is cause for concern.

    Sonnet 144:

    Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
    Which like two spirits do suggest me still,
    The better angel is a man right fair:
    The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.
    To win me soon to hell my female evil,
    Tempteth my better angel from my sight,
    And would corrupt my saint to be a devil:
    Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
    And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend,
    Suspect I may yet not directly tell,
    But being both from me both to each friend,
    I guess one angel in an other’s hell.
        Yet this shall I ne’er know but live in doubt,
        Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

            The first emendation is from ‘sight’ to ‘side’ (144.6). ‘Sight’ is a significant change from the ‘side’ of The Passionate Pilgrim version. As the subject is the youth (‘my better angel’), the change to ‘sight’ in sonnet 144 is consistent with the reading of sonnet 14, and with ‘sight’ in sonnets 148 and 150. The logic of sonnet 14 with its focus on ‘thine eyes’ is well represented in the Mistress sequence in such sonnets as 140, 141, 142, 144, and 149. The editors’ reversion to ‘side’ of the earlier version denies the deeper thematic meaning of ‘sight’ consistent with the Sonnet logic. The slight misrhyme is also consistent with other instances in Q.
            The second change is from ‘finde’ to ‘fiend’ (144.9). The typesetting error from ‘fiend’ to ‘finde’ seems a genuine instance of the misplacement of the single letter ‘e’. The few genuine mistakes are of this order.

    Sonnet 146:

    Poor soul the centre of my sinful earth,
    My sinful earth these rebel powers that thee array,
    Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth
    Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
    Why so large cost having so short a lease,
    Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
    Shall worms inheritors of this excess,
    Eat up thy charge? is this thy body’s end?
    Then soul live thou upon thy servant’s loss, And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
    Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross:
    Within be fed, without be rich no more,
        So shalt thou feed on death, that feeds on men,
        And death once dead, there’s no more dying then.

            The repetition of ‘my sinful earth’ (146.2) occurs with no loss of sense. Instead there is a heightening of effect. In a set of sonnets with other idiosyncrasies such as a 15 line sonnet and a 12 line sonnet, a sonnet with an extra couple of syllables in a line should not seem exceptionable. Only if editors want to view the Sonnets as irredeemably flawed could they want to make so many changes to the original. But this analysis demonstrates that the number of genuine errors in Q is few.

    Sonnet 153:

    Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep,
    A maid of Diane’s this advantage found,
    And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
    In a cold valley-fountain of that ground:
    Which borrowed from this holy fire of love,
    A dateless lively heat still to endure,
    And grew a seething bath which men yet prove,
    Against strange maladies a sovereign cure:
    But at my mistress’ eye love’s brand new fired,
    The boy for trial needs would touch my breast,
    I sick withal the help of bath desired,
    And thither hied a sad distempered guest.
        But found no cure, the bath for my help lies,
        Where Cupid got new fire;my mistress’ eye.

            The emendation is from ‘eye’ to ‘eyes’ (153.14). The change from ‘eye’ to ‘eyes’ removes the erotic suggestion as to where ‘Cupid got new fire’. The fact that ‘my mistress’ eye’ occurs in line 9 of the same sonnet with the same meaning argues against the change. The rhyme of the couplet of sonnet 152 between ‘eye’ and ‘lie’ also has erotic overtones deriving from the ‘bed-vow’ (153.3). The punning play on ‘lie’ and ‘lies’ in the couplet of sonnet 138 prepares for the meaning behind the couplets of sonnets 152 and 153. By contrast, ‘my Mistress’ eyes’ of sonnet 130 relate directly to the logic ‘thine eyes’ from sonnet 14. This is another interference in the logic of the Sonnets for the sake of a tidy rhyme.


    As many as 44 sonnets in modern editions have one or more words changed by the editors. This means that of the 154 sonnets in Q nearly thirty percent have emendations. Many more changes have been made through the centuries. Kerrigan lists 107 he rejected before he sanctioned 55 and it is largely those that have been commented on.
            The number of changes required by editors using traditional methods of literary appreciation implies the 1609 edition was badly edited by Thomas Thorpe or badly set by the compositors. Or, alternatively, the excessive number of emendations required by modern editors since Malone suggests the traditional methods of literary interpretation are inadequate when confronting Shakespeare’s philosophy. Historically, the weight of opinion has gone against Thorpe and so against Shakespeare. Thorpe has been accused of unauthorised publication and the compositors of unprofessional editing, typesetting, and printing. Shakespeare’s authorship has been variously doubted and the ordering and number of the sonnets variously corrected. But, as Shakespeare was alive and well when the Sonnets were published in 1609, it is more likely the need for so many emendations reflects a failure to understand their meaning.
            The above analysis demonstrates the second option is the correct one. Of the fifty to sixty traditional emendations required by the editors, only four can be attributed to the compositors. These are ‘end/due’ of sonnet 69, ‘fel/tell or sell’ of sonnet 76, the ‘stall/shall’ of sonnet 90, and the ‘finde/fiend’ of sonnet 144. In each instance only one letter of the word is involved and each ‘error’ falls into the category of a believable mistake or oversight. There may be an argument for a change from ‘loss’ to ‘cross’ in sonnet 34 and from ‘worth’ in sonnet 25. However, because such irregularities are not unusual in the Sonnets, the status quo holds. There are also around fifteen apparent spelling mistakes in Q, which do not appear in the emendations because the meaning of the word is clear. So, when the Sonnets are read according to their inherent philosophy, the total number of emendations and spelling errors made by the compositors is about twenty. This is far fewer than the seventy to well over a hundred emendations and spelling errors required using traditional methods of interpretation.
            The four genuine compositor errors suggest the editors since Malone have approached the Sonnets with an inappropriate set of expectations. The changes from ‘their’ to ‘thy’ and all the other changes reveal a preoccupation not consistent with Shakespeare’s philosophy.
            The editorial misunderstanding reveals an ignorance of Shakespeare’s philosophy. The editors cannot account for his depth of meaning, nor his particular way of using words and the freedom with which he treats the norms of prosody. The idiosyncrasies of the Sonnets reveal a studied casualness by a sophisticated and critical mind that appreciates that real meaning is not found at line endings or in sonnet styles. Features of the Sonnets, such as the cryptic numerology of the Dedication added as the set was nearing finality, suggest Shakespeare was familiar with being misunderstood.
            The analysis presented here is based on the evidence and arguments that appear in Volume 1 of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet Philosophy. When the evidence of Volume 1 is considered alongside the commentaries on individual sonnets in this volume, plus the commentaries on the plays in Volume 3, and the implications of Shakespeare’s philosophy for philosophy in general in Volume 4, the traditional emendations are revealed to be a consequence of the application of an inadequate paradigm to the Sonnets. That Thomas Thorpe and the compositors have been pilloried by the editors since Malone is one of the great ironies in the history of institutionalised prejudice.

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    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

    Introduction    1-9    10-21    22-33    34-45    46-57    58-69    70-81     82-93    94-105    106-117
    118-129    130-141    142-153    154     Emendations