Motivated Forgetting (2b)

It occurred to me after an earlier post that something similar could be said about the very last of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Like 126, it is a bit of an anomaly, and like 126, it might play on memorable and forgettable things.


This is the very last sonnet of the sequence. It still concerns the speaker’s passion for the ‘dark lady’, but it takes a playful tone in introducing a myth about Cupid and one of Diana’s nymphs. Sonnet 153 does something very similar, and the double appearance of the myth offers suggestive possibilities in relation to forgetting. We could see this as a kind of signal from within the realm of conventional love poetry (something like a signal from the lateral prefrontal cortex), overwriting some of the sharp and strange possibilities of destructive desires in these poems. We could also see it in relation to another sort of forgetting, a play of interference, with two instances of the same material, in two adjacent sonnets, overwriting troubling outcomes of the ‘dark lady’ poems. As in the final scenes of plays, the point is not to suggest some direct and measurable effect on the memorability of Shakespeare’s other Sonnets. Rather, the idea of forgetting is something that we can think about, part of the poem’s engagement in its speaker’s predicament: would a failure of memory in this case be wholly a loss, or partly a relief?

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