Shakespeare Sonnet 141

Updated on April 25, 2020
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 141

The speaker’s attitude toward the beauty of the "dark lady" has changed dramatically in sonnet 141; until now, he has complained heartily about his bewitchment by the lady’s dark beauty and its fatal attraction for him. Now, he throws all that to the wind. However, sonnet 130 gives a foreshadowing of this attitude.

Sonnet 141

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But ’tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleas’d to dote.
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted;
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unsway’d the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal wretch to be:
Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

Reading of Sonnet 141

Commentary

The speaker taunts the "dark lady" demeaning her looks, decrying her ability to attract him physically, yet insisting that he foolishly remains in her clutches.

First Quatrain: Not So Easy on the Eyes

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But ’tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleas’d to dote.

The speaker addresses the mistress again, telling her that, in fact, she is not really that easy on the eyes, and his eyes detect "a thousand errors" in her appearance. But even as his eyes "despise" what they see, his "heart" loves her "despite of view." And therefore he is "pleas’d to dote" on her.

This change of heart could merely be a ploy, just another attempt to curtail the woman’s infidelity. He might be trying to break her hold on him. Knowing that she is vain about her appearance as well as her personality, he is probably trying to employ reverse psychology to make her more attentive to him. If she thinks he does not really care so much for her looks, he might dump her before she can dump him.

Second Quatrain: Not so Pleasing to the Senses

Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted;
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:

The speaker then continues his denigration of the woman’s attributes. He does not even care that much for the sound of her voice. As a matter of fact, he tells her, she does not particularly please any of his senses. In sonnet 130, he demonstrated how she did not compare favorably with a goddess, but now he notes that she does not compare well with other women. His senses of hearing, touch, taste, and smell are as unmoved by her as his sense of sight is.

Third Quatrain: Reduced to Less Than a Man

But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unsway’d the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal wretch to be:

Despite the negative knowledge communicated to him by his five senses, his "foolish heart" cannot stop itself "from serving [her]." Because he has become her love slave, he hardly still resembles "the likeness of a man." He is a "vassal wretch" and not a man at all.

The Couplet: The Pain of Sin

Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

All he receives from this relationship is a "plague." She motivates him to sin, and all he gets out of it "pain." He is taunting her, as he feigns his displeasure with your looks, but he is also quite serious as he bemoans the lustful relationship in which he seems to be inexorably tangled.

The real ''Shakespeare"

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 | Source

The Secret Evidence of Who Wrote the Shakespeare Canon

Questions & Answers

  • What are the techniques used in Shakespeare's Sonnet 141?

    The main "technique" in the poem is the sonnet pattern of 3 quatrains and a couplet with the rime-scheme, ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

    (Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error" at https://owlcation.com/humanities/Rhyme-vs-Rime-An-... .)

  • How does Shakespeare juxtapose the sensual and the emotional in his sonnet 141?

    The speaker taunts the "dark lady" demeaning her looks, decrying her ability to attract him physically, yet insisting that he foolishly remains in her clutches.

  • How many sonnets are there in the sequence of Shakespeare's Sonnet 141?

    There are 154 in total.

  • What is the speaker's attitude toward the woman in this sonnet 141?

    In Shakespeare Sonnet 141, the speaker’s attitude toward the beauty of the "dark lady" has dramatically changed; until now, he has complained heartily about his bewitchment by the lady’s dark beauty and its fatal attraction for him. Now, he throws all that to the wind. And, by the way, sonnet 130 gave a foreshadowing of this attitude.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

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