William Shakespeare

Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems

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pg 684 pg 685 152

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Editor’s Note
2 twice forsworn … swearing you break two vows in swearing love to me. What the two vows are has elicited much debate. The traditional explanation is a wedding vow and a vow of love made to the friend. The most probable explanation is the two kinds of vow described in the next two lines.
Editor’s Note
3–4 In act … bearing 'You broke your wedding vows by adultery, and you tore up your more recent commitment to a lover by swearing to hate where you formerly loved.' These are the two acts of being forsworn referred to in ll. 1–2. Q punctuates 'In act thy bed-vow broake and new faith torne, | In vowing new hate after new loue bearing'. The comma at the end of l. 3 would allow that the two breaches of faith are specified in each of the two lines: 'You are forsworn once in action by breaking your wedding vows and in breaking faith, and you are forsworn again in vowing, since you bear new hate after a recent love'. This is superficially tidy since it divides the two infidelities between the two lines, but does not make good sense: tearing up new faith could at a stretch be seen as an act, but not really as action which is equivalent to breaking a wedding vow by adultery; similarly it is hard to see how bearing hate can really be a breach in vowing. Hence the modification in Q's punctuation here.
Editor’s Note
3 new faith torn The image is of a contract being torn apart.
Editor’s Note
4 new love bearing (a) after experience of new love, after taking on a new lover; (b) after bearing the weight of a new lover (in bed). For this sense of bear see Shrew 2.1.200–1: 'Petruccio: Women are made to bear, and so are you. Katherine: No such jade as you, if me you mean.'
Editor’s Note
5–6 Compare the proverb 'He finds fault with others and does worse himself' (Dent F107).
Editor’s Note
6 perjured forsworn
Editor’s Note
7 but to misuse thee 'To speak falsely of, to misrepresent' (OED 5, citing this passage alone); other senses of misuse are 'to maltreat' (OED 2); 'to violate or ravish' (OED 1b); 'To speak evil of; to abuse with words; to revile, deride' (OED 4); 'To deceive, delude' (OED 6). That is, the poet has made a score of vows that she is honest; since she is not true to him, he is forsworn in his oaths.
Editor’s Note
8 All … lost (a) all the simple faith that I had in you has left me; (b) all my capacity for honesty and truth to my word has vanished into you
Editor’s Note
9 For I … kindness The kind of oaths sworn have shifted from vows exchanged between lovers to declarations on oath as to the character of a person; hence deep on its first occurrence means 'utterly binding', almost 'religious'. On its second occurrence it means 'deep-seated' and has an edge of irony.
Editor’s Note
11 enlighten (a) give you light; (b) render you less dark (physically and morally) gave eyes to blindness sacrificed my eyes to the blind (including presumably Cupid); made myself blind.
Editor’s Note
12 made them … see The eyes become coerced witnesses, forced to commit perjury. The perjuries alluded to in the poem hitherto at least have the virtue of being voluntary.
Critical Apparatus
13 eye] q; I sewell
Critical Apparatus
14 SO] benson; fo q
Editor’s Note
14 more perjured eye quibbles on 'eye' and 'I'. The poet concludes that the eye has committed the worst perjury of all, but the pun confesses his complicity.
The relationship of 153 and 154 to the rest of the sequence is loose. Aetiological tales about the origins of wells are not unusual in sonnet sequences (in Giles Fletcher's Licia 27.10–12 the mistress makes a well into a source of health by bathing in it: 'She touched the water, and it burnt with love, | Now by her means, it purchased hath that bliss | Which all diseases quickly can remove'). A significant number of other sonnet sequences end with a similar shift in mood and genre: Delia (1592) bridges the gap between its sonnets and the Complaint of Rosamond by an Ode; Barnfield's Cynthia (1595) has an anacreontic ode between its sonnets and its concluding tale of Cassandra. Spenser's Amoretti (1595) are followed by a short group of poems known as 'Anacreontics' which precede the triumphs of the 'Epithalamion'. Sonnets 153 and 154 also follow ultimately a Greek form, the lines by Marianus Scholasticus in the Greek Anthology; 'Beneath these plane trees, detained by gentle slumber, Love slept, having put his torch in the care of the Nymphs; but the Nymphs said to one another "Why wait? Would that together with this we could quench the fire in the hearts of men." But the torch set fire even to the water, and with hot water thenceforth the Love-Nymphs ill the bath.' See James Hutton, 'Analogues of Shakespeare's Sonnets 153–4', Modern Philology 38 (1941), 385–403.
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