As the audience is invited in to witness the turmoil and battle engaging inside the mind of the speaker, two enemies are introduced. They are both from one solid being, though they are battling for supremacy in a conflict with only one outcome, death. "The sinful earth," as it is described, is clearly a metaphor for the body, in that the soul is encircled by this all-encompassing power that is fighting against all the souls good. This "sinful earth" has revolted against the soul in an effort to take control of the actions of the speaker. Evidence of this internal battle between the soul and body can be thought of as a dispute between a Lord and his servant. The Lord, representing the soul, rules over the servant, or the body. In this case, however, the roles have been reversed and the struggle is now for control, where the body is gaining advantage. The soul in Shakespeares Sonnet 146 must reclaim its identity as "Lord of" the body and the entire being, amongst false, materialistic adornments; inner "military" rebellions, and ultimate struggles for power and control.
The struggle for ultimate supremacy is evident in all areas of the soul and body. In fact, the soul and the body it occupies should be working in a symbiotic relationship, where each part of the relationship has a different duty or obligation. In the case of Sonnet 146, what was once a united, genuine effort has now turned in to a mere battle of who is or is not willing to step down as controller. This is evident throughout the sonnet as the soul is being addressed as an individual, feuding with, and apart from the body.
Unfortunately for the soul in Sonnet 146, the roles have been reversed as the body takes on the image of the Lord, putting the soul in situations it had not anticipated, "Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth/ Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?" (8-9). The soul is asking why the body is spending so much energy and pain on adorning the outer shell of the body, when that which the body finds important will fade so fast and become just the dirt and earth again. By asking, "Shall worms, inheritors of this excess/ Eat up thy charge, is this thy bodys end?" (7-8), the body is representing the "charge" as a servants obligations or what they morally owe the Lord, and what has to be given up. "Charge" is defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as, " a moral weight, or importance" (OED 9a). It gives an example of a Lord and servant, and the obligations the servant has, which are referred to as the "charge." This explains that the body was in a servant-type position with "charges" and obligations to the Lord, amidst a rebellion.
This mass power of rebellion is brought upon by the idea of obligation and duty, and what is moral charging the body. The body, which was ruled by the soul, in this case represents a huge army of servants, all assigned to carry out tasks and to live the way the Lord insists. Then however, the body revolts and decides to become a separate voice of its own. This situation, of the body switching the roles, is comparable to that of the military overthrowing the government in an example of a coup d'état. This is evident in the words: "[ ] these rebel powers that thee array" (2). According to The Oxford English Dictionary, array can be defined as, " To draw up prepared for battle" (OED I1). Thus, these powers that are against the Lord are arrayed, encircled and are preparing to revolt, as illustrated in the definition, "To prepare oneself, make ready" (OED 4b). The Lord is essentially stuck inside this mansion, or adorned body, as the outside moves in. The Lord truly is the "centre of my sinful earth" (1), in that it, the soul, is trapped inside these walls of anguish, yearning and pining to be released and to regain control.
In the words, "Then, soul, live thou upon thy servants loss" (9), the speaker is addressing the soul and is now giving directions and guidelines for the regaining of control over the body. The speaker is telling the soul to overcome the servant, and to become stronger after the body backs down. This is exactly the premise of the poem: the soul is locked inside its "sinful earth," with no direction, and with no sense of the normal or the regular. At line 9, the soul is directed to overlook the present, for the roles will be switched back to the normal when the body goes through its metamorphosis through dying and in to death. The Lord will regain control as the body truly becomes dross, and the worms do indeed inherit the excess. The roles are reinstated in that the soul becomes the Lord and leader, as it enters its journey into eternal happiness, post-mortem.
Shakespeares Sonnet 146 illustrates several points of view through metaphors and imagery. Several phrases could have fit well in the second line of the first stanza. However, the phrase "Lord of," fuses many of the registers together throughout the sonnet. It produces images of Lords and servants and the struggles, though not blatant and perhaps unsaid, which take place when there is a conflict of interest. This sonnet is not all about struggles and woes. It also gives direction as to how the soul shall overcome the body and become ultimately happy in the end. The sonnet directs the soul in how to forget the resistance and move forward as an enlightened individual.