‘Sonnet 135’ 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 particular sonnet is noted for the repetition the word “will,” which if “wilt” is counted, appears fourteen times in the poem. It is a far more sexually open and lustful poem than most of Shakespeare’s other sonnets. By the end of the poem, the speaker is begging the Dark Lady for sex and wondering why she can’t accommodate one more lover.
Explore Sonnet 135
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker reminds the Dark Lady of all the lovers she accommodates. They are everywhere and he would like to count himself among them. He repetitively uses the word “Will,” a pun on the poet’s own name as well as female and male sexual organs and the desire for sex. He uses ocean-related imagery at the end of the poem to suggest that the woman could take on as many lovers as she wants as the sea can take on water.
Structure and Form
‘Sonnet 135’ 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 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 135’. These include but are not limited to examples of:
- Alliteration: the repetition of words with the same consonant sound. For example, “music” and “motion” in lines one and two and “sweet” and “sway’st” in line three.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines
- Metaphor: there is a great example of a metaphor, or a comparison between two unlike things without using “like” or “as” in lines three and four. Here, the speaker compares his lover’s eyes to mourners who do him wrong but then love him.
- Personification: the attribution of human traits to non-human objects, animals, etc. In this case, the poet personifies the Dark Lady’s eyes. They are mournful and disdainful, looking down on him in a way that bothers him but that he still finds beautiful.
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
In the first four lines of ‘Sonnet 135,’ the speaker begins by discussing the number of people the Dark Lady has at her disposal. She has the speaker, one “Will,” and “Will to boot” and “Will overplus.” It’s not clear who or what the speaker is referring to but he could be thinking about other anonymous lovers or the Fair Youth. Others have suggested that he was even thinking about the Dark Lady’s husband. Or, one might also consider “Will” as a more general term for sex. One final possibility is that the repetition of “Will” is just for emphasis. The speaker is trying to make sure she understands how much he belongs to her.
The speaker wonders why, when she has so many lovers, that she doesn’t accept him.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The second quatrain is simpler. Here, the speaker is asking the Dark Lady if she will accept him as a lover and let him place his “will in thine.” This is a clear euphemism for sex. He knows that she might say no so he adds to this the suggestion that she satisfies a great number of other people, why not him? She already has other lovers and doesn’t see why she can’t accept one more.
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large Will more.
Let no unkind ‘No’ fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will.
In the third and final quatrain, the speaker starts using ocean-related imagery. He compares her to an ocean through a metaphor. The sea continues to grow, adding water to itself, so too should the Dark Lady. She should add “one Will” to her already large collection of wills.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Sonnet 135’ should also consider reading some other William Shakespeare poems. For example:
- ‘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.
- ‘Sonnet 36’ – explores how the speaker and the Fair Youth are no longer going to be able to see one another.