Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 – 1 (“Something of a key”)


“A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted/Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion”

AG: Where is that now? Where are Shakespeare’s sonnets in this book ?

Student:   (Page) 212

AG:  Pardon me?

Student(s):  (Page) 212

AG: I began with the… what the..? “So long lives this and this gives life to thee” Sonnet – Sonnet 18 – didn’t I? – Didn’t we cover that, you know, as an example, of the prophesy of immortality for the poem? – Do you… How many people here have read Shakespeare’s Sonnets at one time or another? And how many have not ever read any of them? – [show of hands] – Okay..  So.. We had “So long lives this and this gives life to thee”, and did that – But Sonnet 20, (which is not in this book), is somewhat of a key to Shakespeare’s series. Interesting, of interest, to all the gay lovers in the class (I don’t know what percent that is, maybe point-three percent!) – one of the keys to the Sonnets, so.. “A womans face with nature’s own hand painted/Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion” – (So he’s really right out there, up front with it, amazingly. Was it taught in school that Shakspeare’s sonnets were somewhat gay sonnets, and that they were addressed to a young man, Mr W.H.  Is that known? Is that taught in high-school?)

Student: My high-school teacher was..squelched that rumor as a vicious rumor..

AG: Well here we have the text. So I put the text out. [Allen  continues reading, beginning at approximately sixteen-and-three-quarter minutes in reads the entire Sonnet 20}  

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

– So that’s pretty definite. I don’t think you can get around that.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifteen minutes in and concluding at approximately seventeen-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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