Shakespeare’s Sonnet 53 Whether we realize it or not, we often give overlook the faults in the people who are dear to us. We focus on their good qualities and ignore the bad. This practice is not unique to our culture nor is it unique to our era. Shakespeare in his sonnet numbered 53, compares all beauty to his friend, and criticizes for trying to be as good as his friend. He does this by seemingly comparing his friend to things of beauty when in reality he is suggesting that his friend is the ideal and the beautiful things are merely copies or reflections of the friend. In choosing the words to describe the person in this sonnet, Shakespeare grabs hold of “what is loveliest in the world at large,”1 In the first two lines, Shakespeare asks what his friend is made of: “What is your substance, whereof are you made, /That millions of strange shadows on you tend?”2 Here he is asking how it is that shadows not produced by the person can be seen on him.
He continues to elaborate on this question with the suggestion of his friend’s indistinctness “as though he were a versatile actor whose true self were never disclosed.”3 He writes: “Since every one hath, every one, one shade, /And you, but one, can every shadow lend.”4 The friend does not have a single shadow.