Shakespeare on the Passions

Sonnet 147 by William Shakespeare

My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.

My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.

Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly express’d;

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

Sonnet 147 reveals a paradox within the poet between desiring the exact sin or ill which makes him sickly, unstable, or less completely whole as an individual – and knowing that the thing you desire is the very thing causing trouble.

Scholar Don Paterson has proposed this particular sonnet was in part inspired by an ending passage in The Old Arcadia written by Sir Phillip Sydney, which reads, “Sicke to the death, still loving my disease.”