Sonnet 138

Sonnet 138

by William Shakespeare

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 untutored 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 suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

Summary of Sonnet 138

  • Popularity of “Sonnet 138”: William Shakespeare, a renowned English poet and playwright, wrote ‘Sonnet 138’. It is one of the best sonnets about love. It was first published in 1609 in The Passionate Pilgrim. This poem is about two lovers who ignore each other’s shortcomings to continue their relationship and ignoring their flaws. It illustrates how they deceive each other to enjoy the bliss of artificial love.
  • Sonnet 138” As a Representative of Flattery: The poem is about love. The speaker illustrates how his mistress swears that she is completely honest and loyal. Interestingly, the speaker is aware of her tricky nature. However, he never makes her feel ashamed of her lies. He adds his believed thinks that he is a naive person who is ignorant of the world. Despite knowing her nature, he never tries to challenge her opinion. As the poem continues the speaker questions why they tell lies to each other. The lady knows that his lover has passed his prime yet she considers him a dashing young man. The speaker also knows that she is flattering him. Thus, convincing each other against the insecurities of aging. In fact, both do not want to accept the pinching realities and each other’s faults. Therefore, they find comfort in lying just to stay together and surpass simple truths for the sake of love.
  • Major Themes in “Sonnet 138”: Love, flattery, and lust are the major themes of this poem. This poem is about two lovers whose illegitimate love affair is coated with lust and sweet lies. The speaker is an old and experienced man, while her lady thinks that he is an innocent young guy who has not tasted the cunningness of the world. The speaker knows that she is flattering him. However, he never tries to let her down. Thus, instead of acknowledging each other’s flaws, they flatter each other by lying about their faults.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Sonnet 138”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to express their idea, feelings, and emotions. It also makes the text appealing to the readers. Shakespeare has also used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below. 

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young.”
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, such as the sound of /s/ in “On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed.”
  3. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Although she knows my days are past the best” and “Therefore I lie with her and she with me.”
  4. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. Shakespeare has personified love in the eleventh line, “Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust.”
  5. Paradox: A paradox is a statement that may seem contradictory but can be true. For example, “Nature’s first green is gold” and “I do believe her, though I know she lies.”
  6. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a sentence that is posed to make the point clear. For example,

“But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Sonnet 138”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Couplet: There are two constructive lines of verse in a couplet, usually in the same meter and joined by the same rhyming pattern. This sonnet ends with a couplet, which usually reveals the central idea of the poem.
  2. End Rhyme: End Rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “truth/youth”, “young/tongue”, “me/be” and “old/told.”
  3. Iambic Pentameter: It is a type of meter having five iambs per line the poem follows iambic pentameter such as;When my love swears that she is made of
  4. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme in the first two stanzas whereas the couplet follows the AA rhyme scheme.
  5. Sonnet: A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem usually written in iambic pentameter. This Shakespearean sonnet consists of an octave and a sestet.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful to use in a speech while narrating the attributes of love based on false hopes and lies.

Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.”