William Shakespeare

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

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pg 502 pg 503 61

  • Editor’s Note1Is it thy will thy image should keep open
  • 2My heavy eyelids to the weary night?
  • 3Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
  • Editor’s Note4While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?
  • Editor’s Note5Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee
  • 6So far from home into my deeds to pry,
  • Editor’s Note7To find out shames and idle hours in me,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus8The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?
  • 9O no, thy love, though much, is not so great:
  • Editor’s Note10It is my love that keeps mine eye awake,
  • Editor’s Note11Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,
  • Editor’s Note12To play the watchman ever for thy sake.
  • Editor’s Note13  For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
  • 14  From me far off, with others all too near.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 will wish, often with overtones of sexual desire. The association of the word with the commands of a superior to an inferior (as in 'What's thy will, Sir?') grows as the poet metamorphoses into the addressee's watchman in l. 12.
image mental picture
Editor’s Note
4 shadows both 'patches of shade which appear to look like you' and 'mental images', or even 'ghosts', which anticipates the spirit in l. 5.
mock my sight 'make me wrongly believe that you are there, and so taunt me'
Editor’s Note
5 spirit ghostly presence
Editor’s Note
7 shames shameful actions
Critical Apparatus
8 tenure] q; tenour malone (conj. Capell)
Editor’s Note
8 scope and tenure (a) the focus and object; (b) the legal domain controlled by your jealousy. Most editors modernize q's 'tenure' as 'tenor', since the two were alternative forms c.1600 (as is indicated by Lucrece l. 1310 and textual notes). However, 'tenure' has the sense of 'property which falls within the jurisdiction of a governor' and therefore meshes with the Sonnets' recurrent interest in the nature and extent of the friend's legal control over the poet. So 'You pry into my deeds in order to find out my shameful actions, which fall within the judicial control of your jealousy'. This is reinforced by a rare (sixteenth-century Anglo-Irish) sense of scope (OED 10): 'A tract (of land); esp. a piece of land belonging to an individual owner',
Editor’s Note
10 my love my affection; but also 'you, the object of my affection', who is imagined to be present in spirit. Four first-person pronouns in two lines emphasize that the poet was merely fantasizing that the friend was jealously spying on him through dreams. The octet. wistfully imagines that the friend is collaborating with the poet's jealous fantasies; the sestet ruthlessly shows that he is not.
Editor’s Note
11 defeat thwart
Editor’s Note
12 watchman both (a) 'One who keeps vigil … a guardian' (OED 3), and more technically (b) 'a constable of the watch who … patrolled the streets by night to safeguard life and property' (OED 4). The pun occurs in Much Ado 3.3.38–9: 'Why, you speak like an ancient and most quiet watchman, for I cannot see how sleeping should offend'. Compare the proverb 'One good friend watches for another', which is recorded from 1611 (Dent F716).
Editor’s Note
13 watch (a) keep lookout to protect your property; (b) stay awake; (c) keep watch to see if you are coming
wake (a) stay awake; (b) stay up revelling (OED 1d), as in Hamlet 1.4.9: 'The King doth wake tonight and takes his rouse'.
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