Shakespeare’s Sonnets are the keys with which we can unlock his heart. Researchers down the ages establish the truth that Shakespeare was deeply devoted to Mr. W.H, to whom he had dedicated Sonnets 1-129.Sonnet 9 is one such sonnet where his unalloyed devotion to his friend-cum-patron comes certified. J. Dover Wilson reiterated that after the Drury Lane theatre got conflagrated and Shakespeare had been driven to live a hand-to-mouth existence, Mr. W.H stood by his side to see him through the dire straits and patronize him. Shakespeare was not only grateful to him but always apprehended the death of his friend or ceasing of their relationship. Where dependence is in the maximum, apprehension is natural to tow in. And hence, in almost all the sonnets [till 129] his fear-psychosis comes to the fore. In some sonnets, Shakespeare finds out a way of eternizing his love for his friend with the flourish of his pen. For example, in Sonnet 18, 19 ,23, he blatantly demands so: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,/So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”[Sonnet 18], “Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,/My love in my verse ever live young.”[Sonnet 19], “O, let my books be then the eloquence/And dumb presagers of my speaking breast ,”[Sonnet 23]. It is only to prove that Shakespeare regaled himself only with the thought of love for his dear friend Mr. W. H. In Sonnet 9, the apprehension stretches a bit further. He cannot even think in his dreams that his friend will remain a bachelor , without fathering any children. It appears to him that the world itself will be left as a barren widow who will go on mourning his demise. Here Shakespeare is again panic-stricken, imagining an untimely death of his friend. Deep friendship leads to over-dependence and the latter gives birth to false apprehensions.
Sonnet No. 9 like any other sonnets, dedicated to Mr. W.H., apprehends something that leaves Shakespeare sad . The opening is striking, dramatic like other similar sonnets. The direct question that he throws towards his friend is full of concern : “Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye/That thou consumest thyself in single life?” This concern is for the anticipated bachelorhood of his friend as well as for his imagined untimely death. In the eyes of the sonneteer, the friend would leave the world itself barren if he has to pass away without leaving an offspring behind. The poet does not hesitate to stamp the world as “makeless” [i.e. barren, again some critics say mateless] wife, mourning the death of her consort[i.e. his friend].As he is blind in love for his friend , it is fit for him to imagine thus. He goes on expatiating on the absence of his friend’s children and its sad impact on the world itself which would find no consolation after is demise as no replica of his would be there before her! An ordinary widow can find solace on looking at the face of her child, which takes after her husband’s. But what about the world which would have no shadow of his friend in front? A genuine love for is friend gets a real expression through these lines.
In the first two quatrains i.e. the octave, Shakespeare is eloquent about the grief the world bears for not having any child by his friend! Whereas in the sestet, i.e the last two quatrains, Shakespeare gives vent to his ire upon his friend. Being issueless , the friend leaves a thrifty existence though the world continues to carry on after his passing away willy-nilly. But what about marring the handsome looks he had? Can that stand forgiven?
Being unutilized for long, the Creator i.e. God will lift it off for good. If he dies issueless, his beauty will utterly be destroyed , leaving not a trace in the least. If he had had any love for his own grace, he could have longed to see the reflection of the same in his child, his successor. But his refusal to marry and beget children is a sacrilege to himself as well as the world he inhabits. Shakespeare , in the concluding couplet , vents his spleen upon his friend and does not even falter to inveigh him by saying, “No love toward others in that bosom sits /That on himself such murderous shame commits.” Thus, to Shakespeare refusal to marry and betting offsprings is an ignominy akin to murder of one’s self. He cannot put up with this decision of his friend.
On close perusal of the sonnet it becomes evident that the writer adores his friend to distraction. He cannot accept the deliberate wasting away of his friend’s physical attributes as well as his potentials to father children. This again goes against the Laws of Nature. Hence he revolts. He denigrates his friend’s negative attitude , he imprecates him.
Just like any other sonnets by Shakespeare , this sonnet too consists of three quatrains with a concluding couplet. The rhyme-scheme is as usual: abab,cdcd,efef,gg. Again, so far as the unfurling of the main thought is concerned ,it is as follows: in the octave ,the proposition of the chief thought is incubating and in the sestet the thought takes a final shape. As here in Sonnet 9, Shakespeare rues the bachelorhood and barrenness of his friend and even goes a step further in calling the world its widow , its “makeless wife.”
But in the sestet , he is unparalleled when he says that his friend’s beauty gets annulled by God as it remains unutilized .His thought again gets a fillip rather final shape when he concludes that his friend has no love for anyone. The images used in this Sonnet are few but comprehensive.
In conclusion, it may be said that Sonnet 9 is a daring composition which registers spontaneous feelings coupled with unalloyed love. But it cannot be denied that this Sonnet is an unintentional exercise in hyperbole. Was it very necessary to call the world itself the “makeless widow” of his friend? Beauty fades with everyone along with the passage of time, whether utilized or unutilized. But Shakespeare turns hyperbolic to some extent. This sonnet ,no doubt, certifies true love of Shakespeare for his friend Mr W.H.
Sonnet 9 is a timeless creation where Shakespeare banks upon the celebrated theory of evolution of man where the chain of creation cannot stop, it has to go on and on forever. None can go against its course. If anyone dares , he has to pay dear for it. May be, Shakespeare unknowingly championed this view.