Shakespeare Sonnet 139 - Owlcation - Education
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Shakespeare Sonnet 139

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

The De Vere Society

The De Vere Society is  dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 139

The speaker continues to allow himself to be made a blithering fool by this woman. She even rebuffs him so that his enemies can insult him. This speaker, who treasures truth, beauty, and love seems to have become a whimpering nitwit because of this woman's physically attractive body.

The drama that this speaker continues to create reveals more about him than he even realizes. By allowing himself this weakness, he may be putting his own reputation in jeopardy. As a truth-teller, he has certainly lowered his vision by allowing such a despicable creature to control him.

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 lovest 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 my 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.

Reading of Shakespeare Sonnet 139

Commentary

Addressing the "dark lady," the speaker bemoans and condemns her infidelity, as the tension grows between his desire and his intelligence.

First Quatrain: Coy Flirting

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.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 139, the speaker addresses the "dark lady" pleading with her not to hurt him in such open and offending ways. He prefers that she just tell him plainly what is on her mind, instead of coyly flirting with others in his presence. He does not believe that he should have to excuse and defend himself for feeling the pain she causes by her disingenuousness.

The speaker wants an honest and open exchange between the two; his disposition requires exactitude, but he is discovering repeatedly that this lady is not capable of satisfying his wishes for plain truth.

Second Quatrain: Stinging in an Unholy Alliance

Tell me thou lovest 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?

In the second quatrain, the speaker commands her to tell him that, "[she] loves[ ] elsewhere." The reader has encountered this complaint in many of the "dark lady" sonnets, and it becomes apparent that her flaw will continue to sting the speaker if he continues in this unholy alliance with her.

In addition to a command, the speaker attaches a question, wondering why she has to "wound with cunning," and he confesses a grave weakness that renders him a weasel as he whines, "thy might / Is more than my o’erpress’d defence can bide." The strength of her continued infidelity overtakes his ability to defend himself against it.

Third Quatrain: Engaging His Enemies

Let me excuse thee: ah! my love well knows
Her pretty looks have been my enemies;
And therefore from my face she turns my foes,
That they elsewhere might dart their injuries:

The speaker with sarcasm insists that she would have him excuse her, knowing that it is her beauty, not her fine personality or intelligence that has captured his attention, a turn of events that the speaker knows to be inimical to his best interests. He knows it is her physical appearance that has been his worst enemy.

The speaker then avers that she has engaged his enemies, but he would have her behave in such a way that would allow "[his] foes" to spray their venom somewhere else, and not in his direction. He knows he cannot trust her to listen to his commands and questions, but he seems compelled to engage her despite his desire to save himself from more humiliation and pain.

The Couplet: Throwing up His hands

Yet do not so; but since I am near slain,
Kill me outright with looks, and rid my pain.

The speaker then throws up his hands again in despair, remarking that since he has been nearly vanquished with the pain she has already caused, she might as will continue to stab him in the heart and "Kill [him] outright with looks." If she can once and for all accomplish his death, at least he will experience the end of "[his] pain."

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The real "Shakespeare"

The real "Shakespeare"

Katherine Chiljan – Origins of the Pen Name, “William Shakespeare”

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes