Shakespeare Sonnet 135: "Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will"

Updated on January 25, 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 135

The word “will” here means primarily desire, and because the speaker is addressing the object of his intense sexual desire, he conflates his desire with his pseudonym nickname, “Will,” into a pun.

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 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.

Reading of Sonnet 135

Commentary

First Quatrain: Her Strong Desire

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.

In the opening quatrain of sonnet 135, the speaker tells his dark, attractive mistress that while many other comely women may have mere wishes, she has a strong wish; she has “Will.” The term “will” carries the idea of desire or wish but with an intention, making it a much stronger wish.

A mere “wish” may never be acted upon, but a “will” probably will. The expression “the will to live” as opposed to “the wish to live” help the reader understand the difference, that “will” is stronger than “wish.”

The speaker seems to think he is flattering the woman by telling her she has the same sexual desire that he does, and he also flatters his own ego by telling her that not only does she have the carnal desire, she also has him and his desire. In his mind, she is thrice blessed: she has her own “will,” she has his “will,” and she has him, who is “Will,” itself.

Second Quatrain: Adding Insult to Flattery

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?

In the second quatrain, the speaker adds insult to flattery, but at least he frames it as questions: in the first question, he asks her outright for her physical favors. Avoiding euphemism, he asks her to “vouchsafe to hide my will in thine.“ He then accuses her of promiscuity, which he seeks to offer as an excuse for his own lechery. He reasons that because she satisfies her “will” with others, there can be no reason that she should not do so with him.

Third Quatrain: Rationalizing the Irrational

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.

Seeking to further rationalize the efficacy of the couple’s wills coming together, the speaker compares their wills to the ocean that is “all water,” and still it continues to accept more in the form of rain. The speaker professes that it is a good thing that “abundance addeth to his store.”

Seeing that the woman is full of desire, and the speaker is full of desire, the speaker adduces that the combination of all that desire can only multiply the advantages to be had by their coming together to satisfy themselves. The speaker is dramatizing his total immersion in thoughts of the act that he had disdained. He is demonstrating the demonic hold that this worldly “will” has on him and by extension, humankind.

The Couplet: Fumbling About in a Notion

Let no unkind ‘No’ fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

The speaker closes his request by commanding the woman not to turn him down. He insists that his plea is “fair,” and he believes or pretends to fumble about in the idea that he has been perfectly persuasive in his dramatization of desire. He maintains that she should “think all but one, and me in that one Will.” He encourages her to think only of the unity of their strong desires as she includes him in that desire.

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.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

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