What is the message of the sonnet Poor Soul?

This sonnet by Shakespeare is on the theme of human soul and its relationship with the human body. The poet begins by addressing soul as poor because the worldly powers that surround soul are all rebellious. The poet puts a question to human soul, but she suffers death. On account of the artificial show of the body then another question is put to soul why does so much cost is incurred on the body which is only short-lived. The last goal or destination of the human body is grave. But the soul is not so short-lived. It survives the lose of human body. The poet’s request to the soul is that she should live on her spiritual powers. The aim of soul should be eternity. it should not care for worldly things. Another advise which the poet gives to the soul is that it should feed herself by spiritual food and should not worry about external glory. This is how soul can feed on death and become immortal. If death dies then the soul will become immortal.

The Contrast between Soul and Sinful Earth:

In this sonnet there is a clear-cut division between soul and earth. The worldly objects engage the attention of man too much. These worldly objects eat the vitals or the spiritual powers of soul. This is by the poet tell soul:

Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,

Painting thy outward wails so costly gay?

Why so large cost, having so short a lease,

Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?

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The Structure of the Sonnet:

One great quality of the sonnets of Shakespeare is their form and structure. The fourteen lines of the sonnet are divided into three quatrains of four lines each and after the three quatrains follows a couplet of two lines. In the first two quatrains the poet raises thought or emotion of the poem and in the third quatrain there is the general resolution of the emotional or thoughtful questionings. The last couplet contains the conclusive idea of the whole sonnet.

The Rhyming Scheme:

Shakespeare’s rhyming scheme is different from Petrarchan or Miltonic sonnets. Shakespeare’s sonnets are therefore called English sonnets. The rhyming scheme of Shakespearean sonnet is ab ab cd cef ef gg. The Miltonic or Italian sonnets are divided into two parts, the first part of eight lines is called Octave and the remaining six lines are called Sestet but Shakespearean rhyming scheme seems to be more melodious and musical.


Thus, we can say that Shakespearean sonnet has been more popular than other forms of sonnets. That is why it is called English Sonnets. Although there has been so much ambiguity on the issue of who the Fair Friend or the Dark Lady is but by common consent is has been universally accepted that Southampton is the Fair Friend and Lady Fitton is the Dark Lady. The sonnets are not general expression of Shakespeare’s philosophy but they are related to the emotional events of his life. They are really autobiographical.



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