Shakespeare's Rebuttal to Possibilities in Sonnet 96
Shakespeare's apostrophic "Sonnet 96," one of the sonnets written to the blond young man, is arranged similar to a rebuttal in an argument or debate." In the first three quatrains, he describes several possibilities, such as the youth's winning nature and potential for mischief, only to refute them in the couplet." He begins with concise one-line points in the first quatrain, moves to a comparison utilizing the entire quatrain in the second, and transitions to two-line arguments in the final quatrain, evoking the idea of a logical, organized argument." Along with reason, however, are the romantic tones of the couplet, which refutes the statements made in the douzain." The conditional nature of the sonnet parallels the individual conditional statements made in the quatrains.
Shakespeare uses end-stopped lines in the first quatrain that mimic the brisk style of a debate or quarrel to establish the arguments for and against the blond young man." He explains, "Some say [his] fault is youth" (1), while others think that youth is his "grace" (2)." The parallel structure of lines one and two deftly contrast the range of opinions on the subject's character."" Along with youth, Shakespeare claims that some view "gentle sport" (2) as a grace as well, playing on the double meaning of "sport" as both "pleasant pastime" and "amorous dalliance or intercourse" (OED)."" It appears that Shakespeare falls in this category, saying in line three that people of all stations and classes love the young man's graces and faults, because he "makest faults graces" (4)." Line four possesses a fault in being hypermetric, which÷like the young man's faults÷can be converted to a positive trait." By contracting "makest" to "mak'st," line four remains decasyllabic." Some editions use "mak'st," but the effect is lost, because the reader does not have to convert the flaw to charm, as the young man does.
The second quatrain adjusts from end-stopped lines to enjambed lines, with each idea occupying two lines, and the comparison of royalty's humble jewels to the young man's slight faults encompassing the entire quatrain." The quatrain becomes less like a simple argument and more like a well-developed line of reasoning as the ideas in the first and third lines spill over to the second and fourth." Shakespeare contrasts the concept that "[t]he basest jewel will be well esteem'd" (6) by association on the hand of royalty as errors the young man commits are "[t]o truths translated" (8)." Although the technical pronunciation of...