Instruction for Man’s Soul

As a poem addressed to the soul of man, "Sonnet 146" by William Shakespeare serves to instruct the soul on ways to gain inner strength in order to break free of its confining body. Because the purpose of "Sonnet 146" is to convince the soul to become ruler over the whole, it implies that the soul is, at the moment, constrained to a sovereign body. Therefor, the combination of words that best suit the purpose of this sonnet as the beginning phrase of the second line is "Bound by." Supported through imagery and metaphor, it is apparent that this is the only line which conveys the overall theme of Shakespeare’s instruction as to how man can save his soul and defeat death.

The images depicted throughout the sonnet truly enhance the tone of the piece, which is grave, yet purely instructive. In line three Shakespeare writes, "Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth...?" which creates an image of desolation and scarcity, conveying the weak soul in opposition to the powerful body. In line twelve, however, the image of the soul being fed renders a solution: "Within be fed, without be rich no more." To free it from the confines of the flesh, Shakespeare instructs man to take pleasure in the death of the body and delight in the freedom of the soul. For when the body is rid of, the soul is truly free: "Then soul live thou upon thy servant’s loss, / And let that pine to aggravate thy store" (8-9). "That pine," being the death of the body or servant’s loss. Because Shakespeare is just suggesting ways to release the soul from the body, it can be deduced that the "poor soul" in line one has not yet aware of the counsel and, therefor, is still restricted by the power of the body.

Shakespeare also uses metaphors in his 146th sonnet to tutor man on the relationship of body and soul. The metaphor of line one, which uses "sinful earth" to describe the body with man’s soul as the center, shows how one’s spirit is constrained to obey the outside. Our earth is sinful by nature, an effect of original sin. It is impossible to escape from it because we are bound within the world and it’s sin. So too is the soul bound within the sinful nature of the body. Because the outer shell surrounds the soul, if the soul is weaker, it is made subject to whatever constitutes the composition of the frame. The "Poor soul" (1) Shakespeare is advising is much feebler than the body that encompasses it; so consequently, it is slave to it. Another metaphor used by Shakespeare as a lesson to man’s soul is that of the body being an empty mansion: "Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth, / Painting thy outward walls so costly gay? / Why so large cost, having so short a lease, / Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?" (3-6). He questions the act of the feeble soul, wondering why man pays so much heed to the exterior of his being, while neglecting the interior. He goes on to instruct, however, a way to reverse the role of body over soul. "Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross" (11), he informs man. By decreasing the time spent focused on external beauty, one can purchase eternal life by improving the quality and beauty of the soul. Only then, according to the instruction of Shakespeare can the soul be freed from the body. For the beauty of the flesh is ephemeral, but the beauty of the soul is eternal.

"Sonnet 146" acts as an informative guide, helping man’s "poor soul" (1) break free from the constrictive body. Throughout the piece, Shakespeare alludes to different techniques man can use in order to conquer the body, save the soul, and defeat death. Using both images and metaphors, he lays out a plan for eternal life. With respect to the informative tone of the piece and the theme of internal struggle, it is clear that the most appropriate phrase to describe the relationship of the "poor soul" is "bound by" because until man’s spirit is stronger than his external frame, the soul will remain enslaved.