This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 46. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis.
Shakespeare Sonnet 46 (Original Text)
Mine eye and heart are at a mortal warHow to divide the conquest of thy sight;Mine eye my heart thy picture’s sight would bar;My heart mine eye the freedom of that right.My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie,A closet never pierced with crystal eyes;But the defendant doth that plea deny,And says in him thy fair appearance lies.To ‘cide this title is empanellèdA quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,And by their verdict is determinèdThe clear eye’s moiety and the dear heart’s part:As thus—mine eye’s due is thy outward part,And my heart’s right, thy inward love of heart.
Shakespeare Sonnet 46 Modern Text (Translation)
Shakespeare Sonnet 46 Analysis
The poet says his eyes and heart “mine eye and heart” are in conflict with each other “at a mortal war” over who will control his beloved’s image; “How to divide the conquest of thy sight;” his eyes “Mine eye” want to remove the image his heart has formed “my heart thy picture’s sight would bar” while his heart wants to bar the image of his beloved his eyes have formed “mine eye the freedom of that right”
His heart pleads “heart doth plead” that the beloved’s image lies within it “thou in him dost lie” which is like a closet that has never been seen with human eyes, “closet never pierc’d with crystal eyes,” but his eyes “But the defendant” denies the pleas of his heart “plea deny “saying that it bears the true image of his beloved “in him thy fair appearance lies.”
To make a decision on who is right, “To ‘cide this title” the poet has assembled a panel of judges which consist of his thoughts “is impannelled a quest of thoughts” that is actually loyal to his heart “tenants to the heart” His thoughts have decided a verdict “their verdict is determined” on which image belongs to the eyes and which belongs to the heart “clear eye’s moiety and the dear heart’s part”
And what they say is that his eyes have earned the right of his beloved’s outward beauty and appearance “mine eye’s due is thine outward part,” whereas his heart has the right of loving his beloved and to be loved in return “my heart’s right, thine inward love of heart”