The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0461  Monday, 18 February 2002

From:           Paul E. Doniger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 15 Feb 2002 19:36:33 -0500
Subject: 13.0444 Re: Sonnet 116
Comment:        Fw: SHK 13.0444 Re: Sonnet 116

Clifford Stetner and Alex Went both make a similar reasonable point:

Cliford Stetner:

>  ... The subject is an understood "I": ie "If this is
> true, and proved on me, I never wrote, nor ever loved no man." "I [not]
> ever loved no man=[nor I] no man ever loved" could refute: "at one time,
> I loved a man" or "some men," or "I [for]ever loved a man" or "men" (ie
> loved with an eternal love

And -- Alex Went:

>It is a construction common in English
> to have two co-ordinate clauses in which the subject of the second is
> the same as the subject of the first, understood. For example: "I wrote
> to SHAKSPER, and [I] received many useful replies."

Of course, if the inverted direct object construction is used, the
repeat of the subject ("I") is left out (it would be understood). This
construction, then, consisting of an independent clause, a coordinating
conjunction, and a dependent clause, would negate the need for a comma
between the two clauses. Are there any editions of this sonnet where the
comma is omitted?  I've never seen one. I rather think that Alex is
closer to the truth when he says:

> The more conventional reading is, to my mind, equally possible. Let me
> correct that. I see nothing inherently more 'conventional' in either
> reading.  My conviction, as this case draws to a close, is that the
> ambiguity is typical, almost certainly intentional, and completely
> delightful.

But the ambiguity, I think, is a bit of an overreach in this instance;
this appears to be a simple statement by the speaker in the poem. It
seems to me that this argument is more like Occam's razor -- the
simplest explanation, here, seems most likely the right one (if there IS
only one right answer).  At any rate, I find this so-called ambiguity
difficult to believe in.

Paul E. Doniger

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