Sonnet 94 by William Shakespeare complete notes for the BA English Students of Semester 6 BBMKU Univerity. This note includes line by line summary, a full summary, critical appreciation, and the faqs.
Sonnet 94 by William Shakespeare
They that have power to hurt and will do none
They that have power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show, Who, moving others, are themselves as stone, Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow: They rightly do inherit heaven's graces And husband nature's riches from expense; They are the lords and owners of their faces, Others but stewards of their excellence. The summer's flower is to the summer sweet Though to itself it only live and die, But if that flower with base infection meet, The basest weed outbraves his dignity: For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
Sonnet 94 line-by-line explanation
Line 1: “They that have power to hurt and will do none,”
The poet begins by describing a group of individuals who possess the ability to cause harm or inflict pain on others but consciously choose not to do so.
Line 2: “That do not do the thing they most do show,”
These individuals do not act on the potential to hurt others, despite appearances suggesting they could be capable of it.
Line 3: “Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,”
These people can influence or emotionally affect others, yet they remain emotionally detached, as cold and unyielding as stone.
Line 4: “Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;”
They are unaffected by the emotions or temptations that might sway others more easily. They are emotionally reserved and patient.
Line 5: “They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces”
The poet suggests that these individuals deserve divine blessings or virtues due to their virtuous restraint.
Line 6: “And husband nature’s riches from expense;”
They wisely manage and preserve their inner qualities or natural gifts, avoiding wasteful or harmful expenditure of these qualities.
Line 7: “They are the lords and owners of their faces,”
The phrase “lords and owners of their faces” indicates that they have control over their emotions and expressions, not allowing their feelings to control them.
Line 8: “Others but stewards of their excellence.”
In contrast, others are merely caretakers or stewards of their good qualities, not possessing the same level of self-control.
Line 9: “The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,”
The poet uses a metaphor of a beautiful flower in the summer, which is naturally sweet and delightful during its season.
Line 10: “Though to itself it only live and die,”
The flower’s existence is limited to its short life cycle during the summer.
Line 11: “But if that flower with base infection meet,”
However, if the flower becomes infected with a harmful disease or corrupted by negative influences,
Line 12: “The basest weed outbraves his dignity:”
Even the lowliest weed (considered undesirable and inferior) can surpass the dignity or worth of the infected flower.
Line 13: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;”
The poet concludes that the most pleasant or virtuous individuals can become bitter or tainted by their negative actions or choices.
Line 14: “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”
This final line emphasizes that even beautiful and pure things, like lilies, when affected by decay or festering, can produce a more repugnant odor than common weeds.
Sonnet 94 by William Shakespeare summary
Sonnet 94 by William Shakespeare explores the theme of self-restraint and its importance in maintaining one’s virtues and character. The sonnet describes a group of individuals who have the power to harm others but choose not to do so. These individuals may appear capable of causing harm, yet they remain emotionally detached and unmoved by temptations.
Shakespeare praises these individuals for their self-control and suggests they deserve heavenly blessings due to their virtuous behavior. They are seen as wise stewards of their inner qualities, preserving and managing them without squandering them.
The poet contrasts these individuals with others who lack self-control and emotional restraint. These people are depicted as mere caretakers of their virtues, not possessing the same level of composure. Using a metaphor, Shakespeare compares these virtuous individuals to a sweet summer flower, beautiful and delightful during its bloom season. However, he warns that even the sweetest and most virtuous can turn sour if they engage in hostile actions.
The sonnet concludes with a vivid image: Lilies, known for their purity and beauty, can produce a foul odor if they rot and decay. This serves as a reminder that even the most pleasant things can be tainted by harmful deeds.
Sonnet 94 praises those who exercise self-restraint and manage their emotions, attributing heavenly graces to their virtuous behavior. It highlights the importance of maintaining one’s virtues and warns against the consequences of succumbing to negative influences. The sonnet’s central message encourages self-discipline and the preservation of one’s inner goodness.
Sonnet 94 Critical appreciation
Sonnet 94 by William Shakespeare is a captivating and thought-provoking sonnet that delves into the theme of self-restraint and its impact on one’s character. Through vivid imagery, metaphor, and contrast, Shakespeare presents a compelling argument for the importance of emotional control and virtuous behavior.
One of the striking aspects of the sonnet is the skillful use of contrasting characters. The poet creates an apparent dichotomy between those who possess the power to hurt but choose not to and those who lack the same restraint. This juxtaposition allows Shakespeare to emphasize the former group’s admirable qualities while highlighting the latter’s potential consequences.
The metaphors employed in the sonnet add depth and richness to the verses. The comparison of the emotionally controlled individuals to “stone” emphasizes their unyielding and unmoved nature. This imagery highlights their strength in resisting temptations and negative influences.
The poet’s portrayal of these self-restrained individuals as “lords and owners of their faces” signifies their mastery over their emotions and the ability to maintain composure even in challenging situations. This image creates a sense of admiration for their inner strength and resilience.
Shakespeare’s use of the metaphor of the “summer’s flower” adds a touch of natural beauty to the sonnet. The image of a sweet, blossoming flower in the summer evokes a sense of delight and purity. However, this metaphor takes a poignant turn when Shakespeare warns that even the sweetest and most virtuous can turn sour through their actions.
The concluding metaphor of “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds” delivers a powerful message. It conveys that the corruption of something inherently beautiful and pure can lead to far worse outcomes than the ordinary and less virtuous.
The language and rhyme scheme of the sonnet adheres to the traditional Shakespearean style, showcasing the poet’s mastery of form and structure. The use of iambic pentameter and the ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme lends a musical quality to the poem, making it pleasing to the ear.
In summary, Sonnet 94 is a masterful piece of poetry that explores the virtues of self-restraint and emotional control. Through vivid imagery, metaphorical language, and effective contrasts, Shakespeare emphasizes the importance of maintaining one’s inner goodness and warns against the consequences of yielding to negative influences. The sonnet’s enduring appeal lies in its timeless themes and the skillful craftsmanship of the bard.
Q: What is the central theme of Sonnet 94?
A: The central theme of Sonnet 94 is the importance of self-restraint and emotional control in maintaining one’s virtues and character. It explores the contrast between those who have the power to cause harm but choose not to and those who lack self-discipline.
Q: How does Shakespeare portray the individuals with self-restraint in the sonnet?
A: Shakespeare portrays individuals with self-restraint as emotionally detached and unmoved by temptations. He describes them as “stone,” signifying their unyielding nature, and praises them as deserving of heavenly graces due to their virtuous behavior.
Q: What does the “summer’s flower” metaphor represent in the sonnet?
A: The “summer’s flower” metaphor represents something inherently beautiful and delightful, like a sweet blossom in the summer. It symbolizes the virtuous nature of individuals with self-restraint.
Q: What does Shakespeare warn against in Sonnet 94?
A: Shakespeare warns against the consequences of yielding to negative influences and engaging in harmful actions. He suggests that even the sweetest and most virtuous can turn sour if they fail to exercise self-control.
Q: What is the significance of the metaphor “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds” in the sonnet?
A: The metaphor highlights the severity of the consequences when something pure and beautiful is corrupted. It serves as a reminder that adverse actions can tarnish even the most virtuous qualities, leading to far worse outcomes than less righteous deeds.
Q: What is the rhyme scheme and meter of Sonnet 94?
A: Sonnet 94 follows the traditional Shakespearean rhyme scheme ABABCDCDEFEFGG and is written in iambic pentameter. Each line consists of ten syllables, with five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables.
Q: What emotions does Sonnet 94 evoke in the reader?
A: Sonnet 94 evokes admiration for those who exhibit self-restraint and emotional control. It also instills a sense of caution against negative influences and prompts readers to reflect on the consequences of their actions.
Q: How does Sonnet 94 fit into the context of Shakespeare’s sonnets?
A: Sonnet 94 is part of Shakespeare’s collection of 154 sonnets, which explore themes of love, beauty, time, and human nature. It stands out for its focus on self-restraint and serves as a moral lesson within the broader context of the sonnet sequence.
Q: Is there a particular historical context or inspiration behind Sonnet 94?
A: The historical context behind Sonnet 94 remains uncertain, as many of Shakespeare’s sonnets were written for a private audience, and their precise inspirations are not always known. However, the themes of self-restraint and the exploration of human character are universal and timeless, resonating with readers across different periods.