Sonnet 146

Nearly 400 years ago, the original edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets was published. Unfortunately, the first two words in the second line of "Sonnet 146" were accidentally left out, leaving us with no way of knowing what Shakespeare’s original words had been. All is not lost, however. After careful analysis of the poem’s metaphors, I have determined that the second line of "Sonnet 146" should read "Yoked to these rebel powers that thee array" (2). This phrase fits with the rest of the poem because it refers to our soul being tied to our body, and describes the body as a burden upon the soul; the yoke is something that can be broken, which also ties into the poem; finally, the phrase also connects with another word in the poem to form a register.

Throughout the poem, Shakespeare uses inanimate objects to describe the body. Whether it be called the "sinful earth" (1), "outward walls" (4), or "fading mansion" (6), the theme of a lifeless shell remains the same. The body is described as merely a carrier for the soul. In each case, the soul seems to be burdened or weighted down by our body. It appears that our soul is yoked to our body, preventing it from reaching its fullest potential.

Shakespeare asks of his soul "Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth, / Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?" (3-4). In these two lines, he is asking why his soul suffers longing and emptiness from within, while giving the body the false appearance of happiness. He then goes on to ask why he spends so much time suffering from within, when his body, the "fading mansion" (6), will only allow him to live a short period of time. To me, this reinforces the idea of the body being a burden upon the soul. He feels that the price the soul pays in suffering while it is trapped within the body is far greater than the rewards of terrestrial life. If it would only be released from the powers that hold it hostage, the soul would be allowed to feel true happiness.

Shakespeare later writes "Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss" (9). In this line, "thy servant’s loss" refers to the body’s loss of the soul once death has settled in. While still alive, the soul is yoked to the body, and forced to live through that body. Once death comes, however, the soul is released. The body, which served to carry the soul, suffers the loss of the soul. With death, the yoke that the body holds on the soul is broken.

In the sonnet, "yoked" and "servant" form a register. Both hold connotations of bondage and slavery. The word "yoke" refers to the condition of slavery, servitude, or bondage, while "servant" refers to any person held under such conditions. These two terms are connected in the poem, as both are used in describing how the body and soul are connected during life.

The phrase "yoked to" clearly fits with Shakespeare’s idea of the body being a hindrance upon the soul. It also gives the poem great philosophical meaning. According to William Shakespeare, the essence of our eternal being is our soul. We travel through life tied to our terrestrial bodies. In death, that yoke is broken, allowing our soul to live free of the cumbersome weight of mortal life.