Sonnets 131–140

Sonnet 131
Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel;
For well thou know'st to my dear doting heart
Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel.
Yet, in good faith, some say that thee behold,
Thy face hath not the power to make love groan;
To say they err I dare not be so bold,
Although I swear it to myself alone.
And to be sure that is not false I swear,
A thousand groans, but thinking on thy face,
One on another's neck, do witness bear
Thy black is fairest in my judgment's place.
     In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds,
     And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.

Sonnet 132
Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torment me with disdain,
Have put on black and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even,
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
O! let it then as well beseem thy heart
To mourn for me since mourning doth thee grace,
And suit thy pity like in every part.
     Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
     And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

Sonnet 133
Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is't not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
And my next self thou harder hast engross'd:
Of him, myself, and thee I am forsaken;
A torment thrice three-fold thus to be cross'd:
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward,
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigour in my jail:
     And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
     Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

Sonnet 134
So, now I have confess'd that he is thine,
And I my self am mortgag'd to thy will,
Myself I'll forfeit, so that other mine
Thou wilt restore to be my comfort still:
But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,
For thou art covetous, and he is kind;
He learn'd but surety-like to write for me,
Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.
The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take,
Thou usurer, that putt'st forth all to use,
And sue a friend came debtor for my sake;
So him I lose through my unkind abuse.
     Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me:
     He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.

Sonnet 135
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy 'Will,'
And 'Will' to boot, and 'Will' in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex'd thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in 'Will,' add to thy 'Will'
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
     Let no unkind 'No' fair beseechers kill;
     Think all but one, and me in that one 'Will.'

Sonnet 136
If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy 'Will',
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
'Will', will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckon'd none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy store's account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
     Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
     And then thou lov'st me for my name is 'Will.'

Sonnet 137
Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes,
That they behold, and see not what they see?
They know what beauty is, see where it lies,
Yet what the best is take the worst to be.
If eyes, corrupt by over-partial looks,
Be anchor'd in the bay where all men ride,
Why of eyes' falsehood hast thou forged hooks,
Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied?
Why should my heart think that a several plot,
Which my heart knows the wide world's common place?
Or mine eyes, seeing this, say this is not,
To put fair truth upon so foul a face?
     In things right true my heart and eyes have err'd,
     And to this false plague are they now transferr'd.

Sonnet 138
When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed:
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love, loves not to have years told:
     Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
     And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.

Sonnet 139
O! call not me to justify the wrong
That thy unkindness lays upon my heart;
Wound me not with thine eye, but with thy tongue:
Use power with power, and slay me not by art,
Tell me thou lov'st elsewhere; but in my sight,
Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside:
What need'st thou wound with cunning, when thy might
Is more than my o'erpress'd defence can bide?
Let me excuse thee: ah! my love well knows
Her pretty looks have been mine enemies;
And therefore from my face she turns my foes,
That they elsewhere might dart their injuries:
     Yet do not so; but since I am near slain,
     Kill me outright with looks, and rid my pain.

Sonnet 140
Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press
My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain;
Lest sorrow lend me words, and words express
The manner of my pity-wanting pain.
If I might teach thee wit, better it were,
Though not to love, yet, love to tell me so;--
As testy sick men, when their deaths be near,
No news but health from their physicians know;--
For, if I should despair, I should grow mad,
And in my madness might speak ill of thee;
Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad,
Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be.
     That I may not be so, nor thou belied,
     Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go wide.


  1. Sonnet 136 has been used by scholars to cast the sonnet sequence as autobiographical, since the speaker implies his name is Will. The speaker is also playing on the variety of meanings of “will”—including genitalia and lovers—in order to comment on the lady’s promiscuity. The speaker also draws on the other meanings of “will” to associate himself with the sexual satisfaction he believes the dark lady craves. If it is sex that she wants, then she must love him, because his name itself contains and suggests those amorous activities.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. In Sonnet 136, the speaker continues to play with the word “will” as he implores the dark lady to accept him back into her graces. The speaker extends the suggestion that since the dark lady has many lovers, the addition of the speaker would be inconsequential. The conceit of numbers and quantities leads into a double entendre in the final four lines. In Elizabethan England, “nothing” and “something” were slang terms for genitals. On the surface, the speaker encourages the dark lady to view him as inconsequential, but by referring to himself as “nothing me” who is “a something sweet to thee,” he adds a sexual context to his humble advances.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. In contrast to the praised “mourning eyes” from the previous sonnet, the mistress’ eyes have now become “cruel” due to her affair with the speaker’s “next self,” a close friend of his who is often interpreted to be the fair youth. Her cruelty is thus twofold in that she has infatuated both the speaker and the fair youth. Prior to the affair, the speaker could look at the youth as an ideal of purity. Furthermore, since the speaker views the youth as an extension of his own soul, the youth could guard what was left of the speaker’s sense of personal innocence while indulging his lust with the dark lady. However, now that the youth is also involved with the dark lady, the speaker’s purity has been entirely forsaken.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In Sonnet 140, the speaker resorts to threatening the dark lady with public slander unless she pretends to love him. The diction of Sonnet 140 features words related to health, such as “sick,” “death,” “physician,” “madness,” and “ill.” This serves to characterize love as a sickness that has deteriorated the speaker’s mental state. Just as “testy sick men” only want good news from their doctors, the speaker only wants to hear faithful and loving things from the dark lady. Even if she doesn't actually love him, the speaker asks that she pretend that she does. Otherwise he will “speak ill” of her in his madness, which he claims is wrought by her “disdain.”

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Sonnet 139 opens with the speaker’s refusal to defend the dark lady’s actions. However, he relents in the third quatrain and excuses her indiscretions by saying that she looks at other men in order to spare the speaker from the “injuries” caused by her “pretty looks.” The speaker’s defences are “o’erpressed’d,” or overburdened, and cannot withstand the “might” of the lady, adding a violent valence to their relationship as the lady lays siege to the speaker’s emotions. The lady’s infidelity continually “wounds” the speaker, so rather than continuing to make a show of looking at other men in his presence, he urges her to “kill [him] outright” by admitting to her affairs.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The Roman God of love, Cupid, was often depicted wearing a blindfold. The metaphor of love being blind has endured throughout the years, expressing how lovers often don’t see the flaws in their loved ones—at least not at first. However, the speaker has never pretended that his mistress was beautiful or good. In his case, he was willfully blind, overlooking her flaws in favor of indulging his lust. Now that she has apparently rejected him, he questions whether it was his eyes or his heart that led him to ignore her poor character. In Sonnets 46 and 47, the speaker describes his eyes and heart as being at “mortal war,” eventually reconciling to become partners in love. However, in Sonnet 137, both become objects of blame instead.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The word “will” is used thirteen times in Sonnet 135, opening the poem up to a layered interpretation due to the multiple potential meanings of “will.” “Will” can mean desire, determination, or lust. It can also refer to the genitals of any gender. “Will” is also a shortening of the name William, Shakespeare’s own name. Sonnet 135 is most often read as a lover’s plea, with an alternate interpretation as an unflattering mockery of the lady’s promiscuity. The speaker beseeches the dark lady to allow him back into her graces, referring to the multiple “wills” in her possession, which likely refer to either her other lovers or her sexual insatiability, or both. The speaker asks why a woman with such a large “will” and with so many other “wills” at her disposal cannot accept one more—the speaker’s own.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Sonnet 134 is a continuation of Sonnet 133. The speaker employs a combination of legal and financial diction to give the love between himself, the lady, and the youth a transactional cast. The dark lady is described as a “usurer,” or moneylender, whose currency is sexual in nature. When paired with the idea of a mortgage, the speaker’s offer to “forfeit” himself refers to the act of signing himself over to the lady to pay the youth’s debts. However, the speaker knows the lady will not give up the youth and laments his involvement. The closing couplet takes on a despairing tone: the fair youth is paying both his own debts and the speaker’s, leaving the speaker free from obligation but not from his attraction to the lady.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Sonnets 40 to 42 and Sonnets 133 and 134 are thought by many to discuss the same situation as Sonnet 133, wherein the fair youth and the dark lady become entangled, leaving the speaker estranged from both of them. Notice that in both sets of poems, the speaker prioritizes the loss of the youth over the loss of the mistress. In order to protect the heart of the youth, the speaker offers to let himself be imprisoned in the “steal bosom” of his mistress so long as he is allowed to “guard” the youth. However, the speaker admits that the mistress controls him completely and that his heart makes a poor guard for the youth, since she owns both him and “all that is in” him.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The noun “ruth” refers to feelings of pity or distress. Pity from a mistress, usually expressed in the form of physical intimacy, was a common request in the sonnet tradition. Male speakers with aloof mistresses would bemoan the lack of reciprocity for their passions, urging their mistresses to take pity on them and engage in amorous activities. However, as opposed to the aloof beauties of the sonnet tradition, the speaker’s dark mistress lacks conventional beauty. She is made attractive by her “mourning eyes” and “pity” for the speaker, perhaps implying that her willingness to engage in physical intimacy is what draws the speaker to her.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Eyes are commonly depicted as the medium through which love flows. In Act II, Scene II of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, as Bassanio attempts to solve Portia’s riddle, she sings about where love is born from, and the answer is that “it is engendered in the eyes.” Sonnet 132 echoes Sonnet 127 when it praises the lady’s eyes as “black and loving mourners.” Notice the repetition of the theme of “mourning.” In Sonnet 127, the eyes were mourning the death of beauty, but in Sonnet 132 they seem to be mourning the speaker himself.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. In Sonnet 131, the speaker rejects the notion that the dark lady is not beautiful enough to inspire love. He puts forward his “thousand groans” as proof that she has captured his “dear doting heart.” Groaning is commonly used in literature to represent lover’s pain, so the fact that the dark lady has inspired so many groans proves that she is beautiful enough to inspire love. For the groans to be “one on another’s neck” means that they are continuous, indicating that the speaker is able to think of little else but the lady. However, even if the speaker finds beauty in her looks, her “deeds” are less fair and, at least according to the speaker, lead to the “slander” about her appearance.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Sonnet 138 deals with the common literary trope of transgression and lying. The speaker readily admits in the first line that he knows his lover is lying, but he stays quiet and the “truth [remains] suppressed.” However, he admits that he is lying as well. At the end of the sonnet, the speaker employs a double entendre to highlight how he and his love “lie” together and therefore feel mutually “flatter’d” despite their obvious faults.

    — William Delaney