Shakespeare Sonnet 140 Analysis: Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press

Shakespeare Sonnet 140 Analysis, theme, summary and modern English translation

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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 140. 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 140 (Original Text)

Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press
My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain,
Lest sorrow lend me words, and words express
The manner of my pity-wanting pain.
If I might teach thee wit, better it were,
Though not to love, yet love, to tell me so,
As testy sick men, when their deaths be near,
No news but health from their physicians know.
For if I should despair, I should grow mad,
And in my madness might speak ill of thee.
Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad,
Mad sland’rers by mad ears believèd be.
That I may not be so, nor thou belied,
Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go wide.
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Shakespeare Sonnet 140 Modern Text (Translation)

Shakespeare Sonnet 140 Modern English translation

-via SparkNotes

Shakespeare Sonnet 140 Analysis

The poet tells his mistress to be wise even as she is cruel and to push “Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press” the limits of his patience with her sarcasm and disrespect “My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain, because hi sorrow may force him to express in words “Lest sorrow lend me words, and words express” the extent of his self-pitying pain that she causes him “The manner of my pity-wanting pain.”

He tells her that he could teach her some skill which would be good for her “If I might teach thee wit, better it were, and that she could then tell him that she loves him even if she doesn’t “Though not to love, yet love, to tell me so, “ which is similar to sick people who are close to death “As testy sick men, when their deaths be near,” but are told falsely by their doctors that they need not worry as their health is fine “No news but health from their physicians know.”

Because if he starts to despair, he will go mad “For if I should despair, I should grow mad,” and in his fits of madness, he may speak bad things about her “And in my madness might speak ill of thee.” He says that the world is gone bad “Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad,” to the point of crazy people believing the ills and lies that other crazy people tell them “Mad sland’rers by mad ears believèd be.”

And he wishes that he not become one of them to prevent her being lied about “That I may not be so, nor thou belied,” and not to let her eyes wander to other men even though her wishes so “Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go wide.

 

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