‘Sonnet 145‘ 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 has been the subject of some debate. Some scholars believe that the poem was actually written for Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. The phrase “hate away,” which sounds like Hathaway, might have been a reference to her.
Explore Sonnet 145
’Sonnet 145’ by William Shakespeare is a fairly simple poem about a woman’s changing opinion of the speaker.
‘Sonnet 145’ begins with the speaker suggesting that the Dark Lady, or perhaps another woman like Anne Hathaway (the poet’s wife), has changed her attitude. Now, rather than saying she hates him, she’s kinder. She’s retaught her tongue how to speak and, like night transitioning into the day, changed the nature of her relationship with the speaker.
Throughout this poem, the poet engages with themes of love. The speaker describes how someone, perhaps the Dark Lady or Anne Hathaway, has changed her regard for the speaker. Something important has changed, and now the entire relationship is different. She no longer “hate” him. Now she says, “I hate not you,” and this brings him a great deal of joy. He’s focused on this relationship in the same way he’s been consumed by his relationship with the Dark Lady in the previous sonnets. This means that this poem is commonly combined with those sonnets.
Structure and Form
‘Sonnet 145’ is a traditional Shakespearean sonnet that follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG. Shakespeare, unusually, uses iambic tetrameter in this poem. This means that the lines contain four sets of two beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed. This is incredibly uncommon in his work. The vast majority of the poems are written in iambic pentameter. The poem uses fairly simple language, something that some scholars have critiqued.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Sonnet 145’. These include but are not limited to examples of:
- Alliteration: the repetition of words with the same consonant sound. For example, “hand” and “hate” in lines one and two, as well as “saw” and “state” in line four.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines six and seven as well as eleven and twelve.
- Personification: seen through the poet’s depiction of the Dark Lady’s tongue and how she taught it.
Those lips that Love’s own hand did make,
Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’,
To me that languished for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
In the first lines of ‘Sonnet 145,’ the speaker describes how cruel the Day Lady has been t him in the past. They once said, “I Hate,” but now she’s taken pity on him. She’s seen him in his “woeful state.” He’s been pining away for her for a long time now. Strangely the speaker suggests here that things have changed with the Dark Lady. Perhaps, she’s not a cruel as she once was.
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
In the next four lines, the speaker goes on to say that the mercy she gave him came straight from her heart. It’s unclear here if things have truly changed, the Dark Lady is pretending, or the speaker is what he wants to see. The tongue that was once only occupied with critiquing the speaker and treating him cruelly is now being sweet. She “taught it thus anew to greet.” With this time, he’s explaining that she change her ways and retaught her tongue to speak differently.
‘I hate’ she altered with an end,
That followed it as gentle day,
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
‘I hate’, from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying ‘not you’.
In the third and final quatrain, the speaker says that the Dark Lady added “not you” to the phrase “I hate.” This changed what she’s been saying to him in a drastic way. He depicts this transition as a natural one, as the night moves into the day. This is certainly a positive change in his world. He also uses a simile to compare the change to a “fiend / From heaven to hell is flown away.”
The meaning of ‘Sonnet 145’ is that opinions can change over time.
The main theme of ‘Sonnet 145’ is love.
William Shakespeare’s most popular sonnet is ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ or ‘Sonnet 18.’
A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that usually follows the Shakespearean or Petrarchan pattern. Sonnets also use a volta or a turn.
The Dark Lady is an unknown woman who features in many of Shakespeare’s sonnets. She’s the speaker’s mistress and is usually cruel to him
Readers who enjoyed ‘Sonnet 145’ should also consider reading other William Shakespeare poems. For example:
- ‘Sonnet 9’ – speaks on the Fair Youth’s lack of commitment and selfish hoarding of his beauty.
- ‘Sonnet 130’ – this well-loved poem compares the speaker’s “mistress” to the sun and finds her far superior.
- ‘Sonnet 140’ – contains the speaker’s threats towards the Dark Lady. He says he will expose her affairs and flirtatious behavior if she doesn’t change her ways.