In Sonnet 75, William Shakespeare writes about his love for the Fair Youth, an unknown young man who is the object of Shakespeare’s affection. Through simile, hyperbole, and antithesis, Shakespeare examines his contrasting feelings for the Youth.
Three similes appear in this sonnet. Line 1 contains the first, “So are you to my thoughts as food to life.” In this simile, Shakespeare compares the Youth to essential nourishment. This highlights the critical importance of the Youth to Shakespeare, even suggesting that the Youth is necessary to sustain life itself. The second simile directly follows the first in line 2, “Or as sweet seasoned showers are to the ground.” In this simile, Shakespeare compares the Youth to an aspect of ‘mother nature’. As rain showers provide favorable conditions and the necessary nutrients required for life to grow, so too does the Youth breed thoughts and life in Shakespeare’s mind. Finally, Shakespeare compares himself to a miser in lines 3-6. Like a miser who hoards his possessions, Shakespeare enjoys possessing the Youth, but also fears losing him to others.
Shakespeare also employs hyperbole in the sonnet. For example, “Sometime all full with feasting on your sight, And by and by clean starvèd for a look.” In these two lines, Shakespeare acknowledges that he sometimes loses interest in the Youth. Yet after a while, he desperately needs to see the Youth again. The hyperbolic use of “feasting” and “starved” stresses the extraordinary intensity of Shakespeare’s emotions.
Shakespeare closes his poem with an antithesis, “Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day, Or gluttoning on all, or all away.” Once more, Shakespeare emphasizes the emotional extremes that he experiences because of his love for the Youth. As we all struggle with the passionate highs and lows of love, Shakespeare reminds us that we are not alone on this roller coaster. Enjoy the ride!
So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet seasoned showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife,
As ‘twixt a miser and his wealth is found.
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure;
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starvèd for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight
Save what is had, or must from you be took.
Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.