Sonnet 54

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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In Sonnet 54, Spenser portrays the world as a theatre, in which, the speaker is the actor who plays all of the parts. The person he loves is the "spectator" at the plays. This spectator is not impressed by the actor, which causes him to put on his best performance. This ultimately brings the actor to realize that the spectator whom he is trying to impress will never respect his attempts, as she mocks him.

The speaker takes his acting very seriously, which the reader can tell by the line "this world's theatre." His whole world is acting, but it has a downfall. He has a love who is never impressed as she "idly sits." The spectator watches the actor while he plays all of his parts, but she does not give the reaction that the actor expects while she is "disguising diversely [his] troubled wits." The actor is actually acting his hardest, and troubling himself, just to get a reaction out of the spectator.

In the second quatrain, the speaker describes all of the parts that he plays, and tells of the great deal of emotion he puts into each scene. The actor tries to amaze his love by showing his humorous side. He shows that he can quickly change his mood if something tragic occurs, and he can "wail" and make "woes." The actor is concentrating on astonishing his audience, his spectator, which helps him to become a better actor because she is mimicking him, which causes him to work harder.

When the spectator "mocks" the actor's style, he tried harder to impress her, and still, it does not work. The spectator does not want to give into the actor's emotions so she watches him with a "constant eye." She does not want to change her mind, or fall in love with the actor. She makes fun of him when he laughs and she laughs when he cries. The actor thinks that because the spectator laughs when he cries, that she is hard at heart, he thinks she must not have any feeling inside her. She is mean to the actor and disrespects his attempts at wooing her.

The actor is frustrated at the end of the sonnet, in the couplet. He decides that since his acting and emotion cannot awe his spectator, then she must not be a woman at all, but a "senseless stone." He concludes with this because he tried all that he could to impress her, but she continues to be disinterested and mock him. She shows no emotion, and does not laugh or cry when time is fit, therefore, she must be a "stone" with no heart.