This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 139. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis. It is highly recommended to buy “The Monument” by Hank Whittemore, which is the best book on Shakespeare Sonnets.
Shakespeare Sonnet 139 (Original Text)
O call not me to justify the wrongThat thy unkindness lays upon my heart.Wound me not with thine eye, but with thy tongue;Use pow’r with pow’r, and slay me not by art.Tell me thou lov’st elsewhére; but in my sight,Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside.What need’st thou wound with cunning when thy mightIs more than my o’er-pressed defense can bide?Let me excuse thee: Ah, my love well knowsHer pretty looks have been mine enemies,And therefore from my face she turns my foes,That they elsewhére might dart their injuries.Yet do not so, but since I am near slain,Kill me outr’ght with looks, and rid my pain.–WIKI
Shakespeare Sonnet 139 Modern Text (Translation)
Shakespeare Sonnet 139 Analysis
The poet tells his mistress not to ask him to justify the wrongdoing “O call not me to justify the wrong” that she has done to him through unkindness “That thy unkindness lays upon my heart.” He implores her not to hurt him by looking at other men but instead tell him directly about them “Wound me not with thine eye, but with thy tongue;” he asks her to use her abilities of attraction openly but not to kill him through slyness and tricks “Use pow’r with pow’r, and slay me not by art.”
He says she can tell him she loves other men when she is with him “Tell me thou lov’st elsewhére; but in my sight,” but she shouldn’t slyly look at other men when she is with him “Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside.” He asks her why the need to wound him with slyness and cunning when she knows that her power she exerts over him “What need’st thou wound with cunning when thy might” is already too much for him to defend himself against “Is more than my o’er-pressed defense can bide?”
He says he will make an excuse for her and that she knows perfectly well “Let me excuse thee: Ah, my love well knows” that she has captivated him with her beautiful looks which is actually his enemy “Her pretty looks have been mine enemies,” and in the same way her looks are turned towards his enemies instead “And therefore from my face she turns my foes,” and injures them with her looks “That they elsewhére might dart their injuries.”
But he implores her not to do all that since he is as good as dead “Yet do not so, but since I am near slain,” he implores her to end his suffering by killing him outright with her looks “Kill me outr’ght with looks, and rid my pain.