Shakespeare Sonnet 133: "Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan"

Updated on January 30, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 133

As the reader has experienced from sonnets 18 through 126, the speaker in sonnet 133 creates a persona of his soul in order to reflect upon and dramatize the activity of his talent and ambition. In that section of the sonnets, the speaker variously addresses his muse, his poems, or himself—all of whom are the same entity, the only difference being the differing aspects of the same soul. In sonnet 133, the speaker refers to his Muse-Talent-Soul as his friend, who is being affected by the dark lady’s behavior.

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 threefold 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.

Reading of Sonnet 133

Commentary

First Quatrain: Dark Lady vs the Muse

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?

The speaker brings down a curse on “that heart” of the dark lady, not only for making his heart “to groan,” but also for the “deep wound” she causes in both his “friend” and himself. He queries, isn’t it enough that you torment me? must you also cause my muse, who is “my sweet’st friend” to suffer?

The speaker is probably finding his musings invaded with thoughts of the mistress, and because of his intense infatuation with her, he feels his creations are suffering. The complaint resembles the one wherein he would chide his muse for abandoning him, implying that he could not write without her, yet he continued to make poems about that very topic.

Second Quatrain: Triumvirate of Soul

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 threefold thus to be cross’d.

The speaker then refers explicitly to the cruelty of the lady for affecting his muse/writing; he claims that she has taken him from himself, and also “my next self thou harder has engross’d.” The self that is closest to him is that triumvirate of Muse-Talent-Soul, which constitutes his life, including his working life.

When the lady disrupts the speaker’s tripartite entity, she causes him to be “forsaken” by everything and everyone: “Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken.” And he thus is “torment[ed] thrice threefold.”

Third Quatrain: Begging to Keep His own Muse

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:

In the third quatrain, the speaker commands the lady to go ahead and lock him up in “[her] steel bosom’s ward,” but let him be able to extricate his muse from her clutches. He wants to retain control over whatever his own heart “guard[s].” He wants to keep his muse in his own “jail” so that she cannot “use rigour” in that jail.

The Couplet: Confined and Under a Spell

And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

But the speaker contends that the lady will continue to imprison him, and because he deems that he belongs to her, all “that is in me,” including that triumvirate of Muse-Talent-Soul, also is confined in her jail and under her spell.

A Brief Overview of the 154-Sonnet Sequence

Marriage Sonnets 1-17

The speaker in the Shakespeare “Marriage Sonnets” pursues a single goal: to persuade a young man to marry and produce beautiful offspring. It is likely that the young man is Henry Wriothesley, the third earl of Southampton, who is being urged to marry Elizabeth de Vere, the oldest daughter of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Many scholars and critics now argue persuasively that Edward de Vere is the writer of the works attributed to the nom de plume, "William Shakespeare."

For more information regarding Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the real writer of the Shakespearean canon, please visit The De Vere Society, an organization that is "dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford."

Muse Sonnets 18-126 (Erroneously "Fair Youth")

The speaker in this section of sonnets is exploring his talent, his dedication to his art, and his own soul power. In some sonnets, the speaker addresses his muse, in others he addresses himself, and in others he even addresses the poem itself.

Even though many scholars and critics have traditionally categorized this group of sonnets as the "Fair Youth Sonnets," there is no "fair youth," that is "young man," in these sonnets. There is no person at all in this sequence, with exception of the two problematic sonnets, 108 and 126.

Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154

The final sequence targets an adulterous romance with a woman of questionable character; the term “dark” likely modifies the woman’s character flaws, not her skin tone.

Two Problematic Sonnets: 108 and 126

Sonnet 108 and 126 present a problem in categorization. While most of the sonnets in the "Muse Sonnets" do focus on the poet's musings about his writing talent and do not focus on a human being, sonnets 108 and 126 are speaking to a young man, respectively calling him "sweet boy" and "lovely boy."

Sonnet 126 presents an additional problem: it is not technically a "sonnet," because it features six couplets, instead of the traditional three quatrains and a couplet.

The themes of sonnets 108 and 126 would better categorize with the "Marriage Sonnets" because they do address a "young man." It is likely that sonnets 108 and 126 are at least partially responsible for the erroneous labeling of the "Muse Sonnets" as the "Fair Youth Sonnets" along with the claim that those sonnets address a young man.

While most scholars and critics tend to categorize the sonnets into the three-themed schema, others combine the "Marriage Sonnets" and the "Fair Youth Sonnets" into one group of "Young Man Sonnets." This categorization strategy would be accurate if the "Muse Sonnets" actually addressed a young man, as only the "Marriage Sonnets" do.

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