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Shakespeare Sonnet 142: "Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate"

The Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence remains essential in my poetry tool kit. Masterfully crafted, they dramatize love, beauty, and truth.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - The real "Shakespeare"

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - The real "Shakespeare"

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 142: "Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate"

The speaker continues to cajole this woman into treating him with some semblance of kindness. His legal and financial metaphors fit the severity of his tone as well as the dramatic importance of the suffering of his sad heart. He seems to know that a day of reckoning is coming to both of them, as he continues to beg her to abandon her evil ways.

Sonnet 142: "Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate"

Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profan’d their scarlet ornaments
And seal’d false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents.
Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov’st those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows,
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.
If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied!

Reading of Sonnet 142

Shakespeare Sonnet Titles


The Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel: "When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text." APA does not address this issue.

Commentary

The speaker in sonnet 142 employs financial and legal metaphors to denounce the sins of the dark lady, as he accounts for his own sins against his soul.

First Quatrain: Sad State of Affairs

Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

In sonnet 142, addressing the mistress, the speaker is again complaining about the sad state of their affair. He chortles that his sin is love, a term he uses as a euphemism for lust. Yet as bad as his sin is, the sin of the mistress is worse because she is guilty of just plain "hate," which he also euphemizes by qualifying the phrase with a sarcastic "dear virtue."

Then the speaker exclaims, "O!," and commands her to compare the sins, which he calls their "state," and insists that the comparison will reveal his state superior to hers. At least he can euphemize his lust and call it "love"; she cannot convert hate into love, regardless of her disingenuousness.

Second Quatrain: Accusations

Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profan’d their scarlet ornaments
And seal’d false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents.

The speaker then suggests an alternative that if she concludes the comparison and still prevaricates with "those lips of thine," it is because her lips have "profan’d their scarlet ornaments." Again, he is accusing her of giving herself promiscuously to others: she has "seal’d false bond" with other men, to whom he lies as often as she does with him. (Pun intended.)

The woman has "[r]obb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents." This metaphoric drama likely is a thinly veiled accusation of prostitution. This speaker seems to be dragging his heart and mind through the mud for this woman, and she still treats him with disdain, which he undoubtedly realizes he has earned.

Third Quatrain: Breaking Spiritual Laws

Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov’st those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows,
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

The speaker speculates that if what she is doing is legal, then his desire for her is also legal. This conjecture is a pretentious way of stating what the speaker already knows: that their relationship is not "lawful." He is breaking spiritual laws that will keep his soul in bondage, and he knows it.

The clever speaker is sure that she does not know this, because she is bound tightly to worldliness. So he offers his conditional ploy in order to suggest that she should, therefore, take pity on him; after all, there may come a time when she will also long for pity.

The Couplet: The Law of Karma

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied!

Finally, the speaker asserts that if the woman fails to pity him and remove his pain and suffering in their relationship, she will eventually find herself in the same position he is. She will be denied all pity and comfort as she has denied him. He tells her that her chickens will come home to roost.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford: 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

Michael Dudley Bard Identity: Becoming an Oxfordian

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes