chapter  7
15 Pages

'Desire is Death': Shakespeare

In Shakespeare's sonnets mutability is what threatens to decay the

object of desire (the young man), but it is also what erupts inside the

restless desire for h im, making it an experience of lack and 'torture',

a condition in which the poet can 'no quiet find' (Sonnets 27, 28). 1

This is even more marked in the dark lady sonnets. Sonnet 129 is

about the self-destructive contradictions which seemingly make desire

impossible:

T h ' expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action, and, t i l l 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

O n purpose laid to make the taker mad . . .