Shakespeare's Sonnets

Shakespeare's sonnets 138 and 147: The sado-masochism of love

Shakespeare's sonnets 138 and 147 read like before and after accounts of a man's experience in leaving an unfaithful woman. Shakespeare's narrator first describes the almost masochistic way in which his speaker remains in a relationship with this disloyal woman out of desire to appear young and foolish to her. Later, when their charade has ended, he drives himself to near-madness, craving her attention and touch despite having been lied to for so long. This theme of self-inflicted pain for the sake of a lover's attention--sexual or otherwise--defies reason in both sonnets, but is at the same time desperate and earnest. While it is not the qualities of the lover herself the narrator yearns for, but her touch and a feeling she inspires in him, his longing for this woman is consistently intense enough to appear rational to the audience as well as himself.

When my love swears that she is made of truth

I do believe her, though I know she lies,

That she might think me some untutor'd youth,

Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.

Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,

Although she knows my days are past the best,

Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:

On both sides thus is simple truth suppress'd.


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