This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 53. 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. It is highly recommended to buy “The Monument” by Hank Whittemore, which is the best book on Shakespeare Sonnets.
Shakespeare Sonnet 53 (Original Text)
What is your substance, whereof are you made,That millions of strange shadows on you tend?Since everyone hath every one, one shade,And you, but one, can every shadow lend.Describe Adonis, and the counterfeitIs poorly imitated after you.On Helen’s cheek all art of beauty set,And you in Grecian tires are painted new.Speak of the spring and foison of the year;The one doth shadow of your beauty show,The other as your bounty doth appear,And you in every blessèd shape we know.In all external grace you have some part,But you like none, none you, for constant heart.
Shakespeare Sonnet 53 Modern Text (Translation)
Shakespeare Sonnet 53 Analysis
Shakespeare asks the youth what is so special about him “what is your substance” and what is he made of “whereof are you made”, that he can express a million different forms or reflections. “Millions of strange shadows on you” Everyone has one image every one, “one shade” but the youth he says has something that he can lend to everyone “And you but one, can every shadow lend”
If someone tries to paint Adonis, “Describe Adonis” the Greek God of love, it will turn out an imitation image of the youth instead “the counterfeit Is poorly imitated after you;” and if someone tries to paint Helen, “Helen’s cheek all art of beauty” then it will also turn out to be the youth in Grecian clothes. You in Grecian tires
If one speaks about the spring and the harvest, “Speak of the spring” then these are weak imitations of the youth’s beauty “one doth shadow of your beauty show”, and a pale imitation of the youth’s richness “other as your bounty doth appear” and that everyone who sees the youth also sees one of the symbols of beauty you in every blessed shape we know.
He says that although in various forms of beauty, “In all external grace” one can see a reflection of the youth, “But you like none,” none you still he is incomparable to any of such things and all because of his firm consistency of heart. “Like None, None You, For Constant Heart”