Sonnets for Advent 24: Sonnet 135

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Is this the most outrageous sonnet of them all? If ‘will’ is slang for both the male and female sexual organs, sexual passion, and is an abbreviated, familiar form of Shakespeare’s first name, then the possible meanings of Sonnet 135 are playfully numerous and potentially surreal.There are 13 mentions of ‘will’ which suggests deliberate obsession on Shakespeare’s part.

The subtitle of Twelfth Night – ‘Or what you will‘ – is relevant here, as are Sonnets 134, 136, and 143 which also contain similar word-play. This sonnet is among the so-called ‘Dark Lady’ sonnets, but no such lady do I see in this poem.

It’s read by my colleague, Dr Nick Walton.

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vexed thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
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 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.

Find out more about Shakespeare’s Sonnets via our free on-line course www.gettingtoknowshakespeare.com

Listen to the same sonnet being read by a student at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

You might like to treat yourself to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s own, exclusive edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited by our Honorary President, Professor Stanley Wells C.B.E., and beautifully printed by Oxford University Press. Find out more by clicking here.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson
  • hungryshakespeare.com

    This sonnet is yet another retort against those conspiracy theorists who claim Shakespeare did not write the sonnets. Fie upon them! At the very least, it is strong evidence that the author is, in fact, named Will. –www.hungryshakespeare.com

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