Shakespeare Sonnet 134: "So, now I have confess’d that he is thine"

Updated on May 4, 2018
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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 134

In sonnet 134, the speaker again is addressing the dark lady, as he laments her power over his other self. However, this "other self" is not the spiritual persona, not the muse, but very bluntly yet subtly and specifically, he is referring to his male member as "he." It is quite a common vulgar traditional part of coarse conversation, and both male and females engage in it, often even assigning nicknames to their private parts.

Sonnet 134: So, now I have confess’d that he is thine

So, now I have confess’d that he is thine
And I myself 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.

Reading of Sonnet 134

Commentary

First Quatrain: Lower Nature

So, now I have confess’d that he is thine
And I myself am mortgag’d to thy will,
Myself I ’ll forfeit, so that other mine
Thou wilt restore, to be my comfort still:

The speaker complained in sonnet 133 that the lady was imprisoning not only the speaker but also alter ego, his soul-Muse-Talent. The speaker’s identity is so closely bound with his writing that even he at times finds distinguishing them unappealing.

The diction of sonnet 134 however cleverly demonstrates that the speaker is referring to his lower nature or his sex drive; thus, the "he" referred to here is his male organ. He tells the lady that he has "confess’d that he is thine." But because the speaker cannot separate himself from this particular "he," the speaker is also "mortgag’d to [the lady’s] will."

The speaker’s sexual arousal causes his entire being to respond and bind itself to the lady. The use of financial terms such as "mortgage" and "forfeit" imply and confirm that the speaker is complaining about physical acts instead of spiritual ones.

The speaker says he will "forfeit" himself, his sensual self, so that he will have "restore[d]" to him his other self and his comfort. He implies that giving in to the woman sexually will dilute the urge and he can become calm again.

Second Quatrain: Physical Pleasure

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.

But then the speaker admits that engaging in physical pleasure with her will not free him from her clutches, because she is "covetous." He knows he will give in to her again. His male member has "learn’d but surety-like to write for me, / Under that bond that him as fast doth bind." That male organ "write[s]" for or creates in the speaker the motivation that will urge them both to cling to the woman.

Third Quatrain: The Diction of Desire

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.

The lady will continue to flaunt her beauty to keep the speaker and his male member desirous of her. Again the speaker employs diction that indicates the material, worldly nature of his discourse: "the statute" of her beauty, "thou usurer," "sue a friend came debtor"—all employ legal and/or financial terms that clearly join the speaker’s conversation to worldly endeavors.

The speaker then admits that he lost control over his base urges "through [his] unkind abuse," that is, he allowed his attention to fall below the waist. He allowed his attraction for the woman’s beauty to stir in him the desire to satisfy the drives that are meant for a sacred purpose, not mere entertainment.

The Couplet:

Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me:
He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.

The speaker then laments that, "Him have I lost," meaning that he has lost control over his male organ. He tells the woman that she possesses both him and his copulatory organ, and while the latter "pays the whole," punning on "hole," he is certainly not free but is right there with that body part.

A Brief Overview: The 154-Sonnet Sequence

Scholars and critics of Elizabethan literature have determined that the sequence of 154 Shakespeare sonnets may be classified into three thematic categories: (1) Marriage Sonnets 1-17; (2) Muse Sonnets 18-126, traditionally identified as the "Fair Youth"; and (3) Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154.

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 example, Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets has opined:

Conceiv'd out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, with its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the "wolfish earls" so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.

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 (Traditionally classified as "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.

Three Problematic Sonnets: 108, 126, 99

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.

Sonnet 99 might be considered somewhat problematic: it features 15 lines instead of the traditional 14 sonnet lines. It accomplishes this task by converting the opening quatrain into a cinquain, with an altered rime scheme from ABAB to ABABA. The rest of the sonnet follows the regular rime, rhythm, and function of the traditional sonnet.

The Two Final Sonnets

Sonnets 153 and 154 are also somewhat problematic. They are classified with the Dark Lady Sonnets, but they function quite differently from the bulk of those poems.

Sonnet 154 is a paraphrase of Sonnet 153; thus, they carry the same message. The two final sonnets dramatize the same theme, a complaint of unrequited love, while outfitting the complaint with the dress of mythological allusion. The speaker employs the services of the Roman god Cupid and the goddess Diana. The speaker thus achieves a distance from his feelings, which he, no doubt, hopes will finally liberate him from the clutches of his lust/love and bring him equanimity of mind and heart.

In the bulk of the "dark lady" sonnets, the speaker has a been addressing the woman directly, or making it clear that what he is saying is intended for her ears. In the final two sonnets, the speaker is not directly addressing the mistress. He does mention her, but he is speaking now about her instead of directly to her. He is now making it quite clear that he is withdrawing from the drama with her.

Readers may sense that he has grown battle-weary from his struggle for the woman’s respect and affection, and now he has finally decided to make a philosophical drama that heralds the end of that disastrous relationship, announcing essentially, "I’m through."

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

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