Rationalizing Rejection in Sonnet 42

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Sonnet 42: Rationalizing Rejection

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 42 is about a man, the speaker, who is contemplating the loss of his lover to his friend. The speaker is exploring the motive for his lover’s choice of betrayal; more notably he is attempting to explain why this betrayal has occurred with a series of different rationalizations. The speaker appears to believe that he will not be as pained by his loss if he were to rationalize why his lover betrayed him.
Shakespeare notoriously wrote three separate types of sonnets. The first set is Sonnets 1-126 which discuss a young man and often deal with the element of time. Sonnet 42 falls into the “young man” category and this character is present as the speaker’s friend.
The
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This rationalization has several flaws. First, the speaker shows a contradiction in line 5; the speaker calls his betrayers, “loving offenders” yet says he will excuse the sinners. This is a contradiction since he makes it a point to call them “offenders” while forgiving them in the same line.
Line 6 in the second quatrain is the thesis of the speaker’s second attempt to rationalize and shows yet another contradiction. The form of this line does not match with the rest of the sonnet in its iambic pentameter form. Shakespeare uses this particular form to set the line apart from the rest of the sonnet. The line’s emphasis is on the fact that the young man only desires the speaker’s lover because he knew the speaker loved her as well. This has a double meaning which may be why Shakespeare intended for it to stand out from the rest of the sonnet. First, the meaning could be just as it reads; this is most likely the true motivation the young man had to in seeking the lover in order to take her away from the speaker. Yet, the speaker attempts to excuse the young man’s behavior by giving a second meaning to the line saying in lines 7 and 8 that the betrayal was done for his own sake in order to test the lover’s faithfulness. This rationale is flawed here because in the event that the

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