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Analysis of Sonnet 118

Like as, to make our appetites more keen,

With eager compounds we our palate urge;

As to prevent our maladies unseen

We sicken to shun sickness when we purge:

Even so, being full of your ne’er cloying sweetness,

To bitter sauces did I frame my feeding;

And, sick of welfare, found a kind of meetness

To be diseas’d ere that there was true needing.j

Thus policy in love, to anticipate

The ills that were not, grew to faults assur’d,

And brought to medicine a healthful state

Which, rank of goodness, would by ill be cur’d:

But thence I learn, and find the lesson true,

Drugs poison him that so fell sick of you.

This is another sonnet that Hieatt found to share certain similarities with Spencer’s _Ruines of Rome: “In Sonnets 118 the conceit of health ‘rank in goodness’ anticipating and thus precipitatin sickness mirrors, first, Ruines 10–the ‘rank seed’ who destroy themselves–and, second, Ruines23–the Roman people ‘impatient of pleasure’s faint desires,’ becoming the matter of their own fimes, ‘as in a vicious body gross disease / Soon grows through humor’s superfluity’.”

Having a possible source for this sonnet, we will now move to a paraphrasing of the sonnet. 1-2: ‘In order to make our appetites more aware (of taste), we convince our palate by ingesting stimulating dishes’; 3-4: ‘In order to prevent unforeseen sickness, we purge ourselves [Ingram/jRedpath note, “The old-fashioned purges were very powerful, and could indeed make people feel extremely ill”], to make that sickness feign, yet become sick by doing so’; 5-6: ‘As this is, I apportioned my diet to unsavory dishes [base company] from being (so) full of your substantial sweetness’; 7-8: ‘And, overindulged in happiness, I found a [requisite] jusxtaposition of becoming diseased (from the purging) because I was in need of, 1) the sickness, or 2) your love [or both]’; 9-10: ‘Thus, it is a sly [almost overly-sly] strategy in love, to anticipate the malefactors that are not always thought of, which grow into affirmed faults’; 11-12: ‘And make a “healthful state” of me available to medicine which, gross [almost with a sense of glutton] with goodness, would be cured by the malefactors:’ 13-14: ‘But from this I learn, and find the lesson [moral] true, that the drugs that poisoned him [identity unknown; possibly in general] are the same ones that made me fall (love) sick for you’.

The first half of the second quatrain relates to the first half of the first quatrain with food imagery such as “being full”, “sweetness”, “bitter sauces”, and “feeding”. The latter halves of the first two quatrains are equally congruent, relating “maladies”, “sicken” and “sickness” in the first to “sick” and “diseas’d” in the second. In line 7, Ingram/Redpath note “sick of welfare” deserves a meaning of “surfeited with happiness (lit. ‘fine fare’), not ‘weary of happiness.”

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