ing in response to the fault fi nding of the other so the Poet in sonnet writes

Ing in response to the fault fi nding of the other so

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ing in response to the fault- fi nding of the other, so the Poet in sonnet  writes of how ‘‘For thee, against myself I’ll vow debate’’ and in sonnet  of how ‘‘for thy right myself will bear all wrong.’’ What seems so distinctive in its frequent variations in Shakespeare’s sonnets – the speaker’s impulse when blamed to contribute his own self-blam- ing ‘‘comment upon that o ff ence’’ (sonnet  ), his re ection that ‘‘I against myself with thee partake’’ (sonnet  ): can it perhaps be said that this self-fashioning through proposing self-blame is as much a part of ‘‘Molyneux’s moment’’ as it is part of ‘‘the Shakespearean moment’’? Shakespeare’s sonnet  I would read as a poem that gives some new twists to the negatively polite strategies of non-presumption and non- coercion which Molyneux deploys selectively in the self-asserting sub- servience of his letter.  The rhetoric of politeness
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That god forbid that made me fi rst your slave I should in thought control your times of pleasure, Or at your hand th’account of hours to crave, Being your vassal bound to stay your leisure. O, let me su ff er, being at your beck, Th’imprisoned absence of your liberty, And, patience-tame to su ff erance, bide each check Without accusing you of injury. Be where you list, your charter is so strong That you yourself may privilege your time To what you will; to you it doth belong Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime. I am to wait, though waiting so be hell, Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well. It is a sonnet that deals explicitly with the underling’s cha fi ng at his duty to ‘‘bide each check / Without accusing you [the superior] of injury’’ (lines ). In the Poet’s handling of this speech problem, we can recognize his foregrounding of standard politeness maneuvers. First, we have non-presumption – ‘‘god forbid . . . I should in thought control your times of pleasure’’ ( ). (The primary meaning in this context and in line  of the word ‘‘pleasure’’ arises, I would suggest, from its relation to the servingman’s phrase – ‘‘If it please your lordship’’ – which becomes con ated with the more usually noted sexual overtones. ⁴⁸ ) And second, we have non-coercion – compare Molyneux’s ‘‘havinge onlie to walke in the Pathe I am directed’’ to the Poet’s ‘‘Being your vassal bound to stay your leisure’’ and ‘‘being at your beck’’ ( , ). What makes the poem so rich is the imaginative apprehension it o ff ers of what it would be like to be constrained, as many proud servingmen injured by their superiors in Shakespeare’s day must have been, by the contradic- tory pulls of a negatively polite speech repertoire. What has often been read as a psychological state fi gured in the language is rather (or, as I shall argue later, is also) a historically speci fi c social relation fi gured in language.
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