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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 1, 2011

Platonische Liebe in Shakespeares Sonett 116

Horst Breuer
From the journal


The article discusses the concept of love in Shakespeare's Sonnet 116. After introductory remarks on the poem, the philosophical context of Renaissance neoplatonism is outlined. Marsilio Ficino, Pietro Bembo and Baldassare Castiglione come into closer focus. Their writings emphasize that true love is not sensual, but spiritual, the body being, in the last resort, corruptible matter, treacherous, transient, the soul's prison. Love is the desire for beauty which is a reflection of God's eternal celestial light. Against this background, the theme of Platonic love in Shakespeare's poem is analysed. The sonnet hails ideal love as the friendship of souls, rising above amatory desire, and it praises love's constancy and time-transcending permanence, regardless of bodily decay or even the waning of the beloved's affection. From its position in the fair friend section of the sequence, the poem seems to apply particularly to the affective bond between men of rank and culture. Shakespeare's works present a great variety of love relationships, his occasionally Platonic frame of mind being one of the lesser known elements of his poetry.

Published Online: 2011-December
Published in Print: 2011-December