‘Sonnet 133’ is one of William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. It is part of the Dark Lady sequence of sonnets. They deal with the speaker (who is usually considered to be William Shakespeare himself) and his relationship with his mistress, the Dark Lady. This sonnet is a particularly complicated one. It explores his current relationship with the Lady and how she’s influencing the Fair Youth as well.
Explore Sonnet 133
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 133,’ the speaker acknowledges the Dark Lady’s control over him and curses her heart. He wishes that he could find a way to stop her from torturing him and his muse, the Fair Youth. This could be an allusion to a previous relationship the Youth had with the Lady or something contemporary. The speaker eventually creates several images, attempting to protect the Youth from the Lady, confining him to his own heart. Then, he thinks, the Lady can’t have the Youth without also having the speaker. This is all in an attempt to return to some sort of normalcy in regard to the speaker’s writing.
Throughout ‘Sonnet 133,’ the poet engages with themes of relationships and abuse. Although it’s unclear why or how the Dark Lady mistreats the speaker, it’s clear that he believes he’s unfairly abused in some way. He speaks about her cruelty and mournful eyes several times throughout these sonnets while emphasizing how trapped he feels. She controls him through her unique, unrelenting beauty. In this sonnet, he also mentions the Fair Youth, exploring the fact that she can exert her control over more than one person.
Structure and Form
‘Sonnet 133’ by William Shakespeare is a traditional sonnet that follows the pattern Shakespeare popularized. It contains fourteen lines that are divided into two quatrains, or sets of four lines, and one sestet, or set of six lines. They rhyme ABABCDCDEFEFGG as the vast majority of Shakespeare’s sonnets do.
In iambic pentameter, each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed, and the second is stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM. The poem can also be divided into three sets of four lines and a final two-line couplet. The first line is a particularly good example of iambic pentameter. The turn at the end is also effective, revealing that the speaker is well aware that his attempts to protect himself and the Youth from the Dark Lady are never going to work.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 133’. These include but are not limited to examples of:
- Alliteration: the repetition of words with the same consonant sound. For example, “slave,” “slavery,” and “sweet’st” in line four and “heart” and “heart” in line one.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines one and two.
- Caesura: pauses a poet inserts into the middle of lines. For example, “And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee.”
Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is ’t not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet’st friend must be?
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 133,’ the speaker picks up themes that should be familiar to those who read the previous sonnets. He’s been speaking to and about the “Dark Lady” and the control she has over his heart. She’s not as kind as he might like her to be, and as a result, he deceit to curse “that heart” that makes him “groan.” He’s expressing frustration with his situation and the fact that he is tortured in addition to his “sweet’st friend.” This is the first time the Fair Youth has come back into the poems for several sonnets. Here, the speaker could be alluding to an affair the Youth had with the Lady or some other wound she’s inflicted on them.
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
And my next self thou harder hast engross’d:
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken;
A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross’d.
In the next four lines, the poet goes on to say that her treatment of him has made it much harder to write. His muse is suffering from her insults and cruelty. It should be noted, though, that he’s currently writing about her, so it can’t be too influenced by the relationship. He’s still producing work.
The speaker says that he feels separate from himself, as though she is changing him. She’s interrupting his work and disrupting the relationship he had with his muse, the Youth, and his writing. This change makes him feel “forsaken” and lost from everything in his life.
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,
But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigour in my jail:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.
In the third and final quatrain of ‘Sonnet 133,’ the speaker tells the lady to “Prison [his] heart in [her] steel bosom’s ward,” or to lock him up. But, he asks, he wants to be able to take his “friend’s heart” (the Fair Youth’s heart) from her. His heart can guard the Youth and keep him. Then, the only way she can have the Youth is by having the speaker. His heart can continue to guard the Youth from the Lady’s cruelty. But, in the final two lines, known as a couplet, the speaker admits that these attempts are purposeless. He knows that he’s in her control, as is anything in his heart.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Sonnet 133’ should also consider reading some other William Shakespeare poems. For example:
- ‘Sonnet 131’ – one of the first Dark Lady sonnets. It addresses her cruelty to the speaker.
- ‘Sonnet 36’ – explores how the speaker and the Fair Youth are no longer going to be able to see one another.
- ‘Sonnet 7’ – addresses the Youth’s beauty and how he should have children to preserve it.
- ‘Sonnet 76’ – is an upbeat poem that discusses the speaker’s love for the Youth and explores the poet’s writing.