Shakespeare Sonnet 145: "Those lips that Love’s own hand did make"

Updated on February 28, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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 145

Sonnet 145 demonstrates an unfortunate, shallow attempt at cleverness; thus, it does not, in fact, accomplish that goal. The speaker simply sounds silly, as he appears to be concocting a situation while recounting a linguistic event with that despicable, dark lady.

The speaker is not directly addressing the woman in this sonnet as he is wont to do. Interestingly, this sonnet is written in iambic tetrameter, instead of the traditional pentameter, in which all of the other sonnets are written, giving a clipped, curt rhythm.

Sonnet 145

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breath’d forth the sound that said ‘I hate,’
To me that languish’d for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was us’d in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
‘I hate,’ she alter’d with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And sav’d my life, saying—‘Not you.’

Reading of Sonnet 145

Commentary

This sonnet is likely the weakest of the entire series of 154. The speaker is obviously reaching here, striving to make clever a rather mundane little scenario that falls flat.

First Quatrain: The Cleverness of Incompleteness

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breath’d forth the sound that said ‘I hate,’
To me that languish’d for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,

In the first quatrain, the speaker reports that the woman has spewed forth the expression, "I hate," and he makes the contrast between the lips "that Love’s own hand [had] made," and the expression of hatred that they pronounced. He reveals that she said these vile words to him even as he had been pining for her.

The speaker then begins to report a turn-around of the lady’s sentiment by stating, "But when she saw my woeful state," which he leaves for the next quatrain. This construction is no doubt part of his attempt at cleverness by leaving the thought uncompleted.

Second Quatrain: Wiping Clean the Hatred

Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was us’d in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;

The speaker reveals that after seeing his sorrowful expression, she suddenly becomes sympathetic toward him. He makes it difficult to accept his claim that "straight in her heart mercy c[a]me." In early sonnets, he has painted her the epitome of evil will toward him, but now he wants to play a little game with words. The reader has to believe the speaker is deluding himself.

But, nevertheless, the speaker claims that she changes her hatred and even chides herself for causing him pain. He would have his listener believe that she is truly sorry for using her tongue "in giving gentle doom." She accordingly wipes clean her earlier expression of hatred and begins again.

Third Quatrain: The Clever Construct

‘I hate,’ she alter’d with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.

However, when the woman restates her expression, the same "I hate," comes flying from her mouth. But, and here is the clever construction of which the speaker feels very proud, "she alter’d with an end, / That follow’d it as gentle day / Doth follow night, who like a fiend / From heaven to hell is flown away."

The speaker seems to understand that no matter what he says to delude himself, beneath the facade he knows the truth: she is surely that fiend whom heaven has expelled to hell. After setting up these contrasts, the speaker waits for the couplet to complete his little twist.

The Couplet: "‘I hate’ from hate away she threw"

‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And sav’d my life, saying—‘Not you.’

The lady then tells him that she does actually hate, but she does not hate him. And he buys into that, or at least pretends to, and thus claims that she has saved his life. He is easy to please at times.

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 3 months ago from U.S.A.

      Getting close to end now--only 9 more to go. It has been a fascinating experience fashioning these commentaries about that 154-sonnet series. I've learned a lot from them. I've also discovered the three themed category designations do not always hold true. And that's a wholly different issue that I'm not sure I will want to tackle--at least just yet.

      Thanks for commenting, Louise! Always welcome your feedback. Have a blessed day!

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 3 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thanks Linda for another lovely poem from The Bard. =)

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