Sonnet #146

The registers in Shakespeare’s sonnet #146 are siege warfare and the neglect of the soul. Line two of this sonnet contains these two registers, though it is lacking the first two words. The phrase "starved by" completes both registers and flows with the movement of the poem. Other words could be substituted, but none would clarify both registers as clearly as "starved by." "Starved by" best completes the line while corresponding well with the registers of war and the weakening of the soul.

Sonnet #146 is a poetic drama about the battle the siege warfare imposed upon the soul by the body. In line two, "[ ] these rebel powers that thee array" the phrase "rebel powers" is a metaphor for the body as it rebels from the soul’s command. This is shown by the word "array," which is defined as "to put into a (sore) plight, trouble, afflict" (10b), and "to draw up prepared for battle, to raise in arms" (1a) according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In line two, "array" tells how the body is breaking away from the soul’s control. The body detaches itself by attacking the soul and inflicting pain and suffering. The body is separating itself in order to gain the freedom it desires. The word "array" also implies that the soul is being assaulted in a war-like fashion.

"Starved by" gives reference to how the body is injuring the soul. A siege, the act of starving out the enemy in times of war, is the body’s main offensive against the soul. The soul is being deprived of the nourishment it requires, as evidenced in line three by the words "pine within" and "suffer dearth." The dearth from which the soul suffers is the sin and disregard placed upon it by the body. The soul yearns for terms divine, but receives material objects and lusty adornments instead. The soul is being starved of the provisions it craves because of the siege being taken upon it by the body. The words "starved by" would properly complete line two because the body is besieging the soul. "Starved by these rebel powers that thee array," fits the register of war, due to the siege the body is afflicting on the soul and is supported by the definitions of "array."

"Starved by" shows that the body is starving the soul and making it suffer in order for the body to weaken the soul’s defenses. The body wants to be its own ruler and cannot have that power until the soul is contained. A reference the speaker makes towards the body’s motives can be found, again, in the word "array." The OED reports that "array" can also be defined as, "To furnish the person with raiment, now to dress up with display" (8a). In line four, "Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?" the speaker is telling what the body is doing to rebel from the soul. By indulging in sinful desires, the soul’s needs are being overlooked when the body’s cravings should be. "Array" reinforces the power of "starved by" in the poem by strengthening the register of neglect implied by the sonnet.

In order to survive, the soul must rely heavily on the body for its support and cooperation. Instead, the soul is abandoned by the body and left alone to fend for itself. The soul yearns from within to be fed divine gifts and love, but it is suffering in the darkness cast by the shadow of the body’s sins. In line three the words "pine within" refer to the soul’s hunger pains and the words "suffer dearth" talk of what the soul is being fed. The phrase "starved by" represents the attitude the body has towards the soul. The body believes that if the soul is starved to death, the body can reign supreme. A starved soul is a weak opponent and could easily be overthrown by a strong body. This is especially true because the soul is not receiving the proper attention and affection it needs to be healthy. In this weakened state the soul is not a worthy opponent for the body. The soul is being abused simply because the body wants control and is willing to starve the soul in order to gain that control. "Starved by" works perfectly within the sonnet because the phrase reinforces the attitudes the body has towards the soul and the register of neglect.

The phrase "starved by" is the best choice to complete line two of Shakespeare’s Sonnet #146 because it moves with the registers of war and neglect exceptionally well. "Starved by" emphasizes the concept of an inner war between the soul and the body, which is conveyed through the siege that the soul is under. The phrase "starved by" also fulfills the register of hunger that the soul feels from the body’s oppression. "Starved by" conveys the emotion of distress and pain caused by the body’s siege warfare.


Works Cited

1. "Array", The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989