Not So Fast, Sonnet 116!

Dr. Carl Atkins is the author of Shakespeare’s Sonnets: With Three Hundred Years of Commentary as well as a prolific commenter here at ShakespeareGeek, both while holding down a day job as a medical doctor. Instead of a typical author interview with press blurbs and bio questions we decided to do something different – Carl’s going to guest blog a series for us based on *your* questions. Context : Starting with the premise that most people know about only a handful of sonnets – 18, 116, 130, and such – I asked Dr. Atkins if he felt there were any that in particular did not deserve the praise that’s been heaped upon them.  In a later installment we’ll look at the opposite question, which sonnets are the undiscovered gems that people haven’t really noticed, but should? Great question, but difficult to answer. First of all, there is not one of Shakespeare’s sonnets that I can’t stand. There are a couple that are not on my list of highlights (like 105 and 145), but I am still able to find redeeming qualities in them. But of the popular ones, the one that I think is the most overrated is probably 116. I certainly think it does not deserve to be better known than many others. Additionally, I agree with Helen Vendler that the sonnet is probably most often misread. From my book:

She suggests it is a rebuttal to an “anterior utterance” made by the beloved: “You would like the marriage of true minds to have the same permanence as the sacramental marriage of bodies. But this is unreasonable — there are impediments to such constancy.”

The major effect this has on the reading is one of tone, which is brought out at the outset by emphasis on the word “me” in the first line: “Let me not (as you have done) admit impediments to the marriage of true minds, etc.” … Kerrigan also finds an unorthodox reading:

“This sonnet has been misread so often and so mawkishly that it is necessary to say at once, if brutally, that Shakespeare is writing about what cannot be obtained. The convoluted negatives of the last line …show the poet protesting too much…”

Yet those negatives are anything but convoluted. The couplet is a simple statement of fact. As Ramsey says:

“The implied completion is ‘But I have written and men have loved; so this is not error,’ precisely fulfilling the valid logical paradigm: If A, then B; not B, therefore not A. A sufficient proof that he has written and that men have loved is the poem itself, which verifies the claim.”

You should try reading this sonnet with Vendler’s mindset. It changes it from a lovely, romantic piece into an angry, passionate outburst. It is still a great poem, and it fits with many others in the series, but its tenor is entirely different. About the Author This book brings together the scholarship of dozens of the most brilliant commentators who have written about Shakespeare’s Sonnets over the past three hundred years. This edition adds the significant work done by modern editors to the most important commentary culled from the two variorum editions of the last century. Atkins presents a straightforward edition without jargon with the simple goal of finding out how the poems work and how they may be interpreted. He is the first to collate the modern texts so that differences among them can be fully appreciated and compared. His discussion of meter and verse is more substantial than that of any other edition, adding particular dimension to this text. Those coming to "The Sonnets" for the first time and those seeking a fresh look at an old friend will equally find this edition scholastically rigorous and a pleasure to read. Carl D. Atkins is a practicing medical oncologist in New York. Got a question for the author? Send it in and we’ll see if we can get it in the queue!

27 thoughts on “Not So Fast, Sonnet 116!

  1. Willshill, are you playing my shill to allow me to expound on my favorite subject, Shakespearean meter? Let's first talk about some basics so everyone can understand. The basic structure of a sonnet is the iambic pentameter: 5 metrical feet made up of two syllables each, an unstressed beat followed by a stressed beat (da-DUM). In practice, though, good poets, like Shakespeare, allowed for variation from this structure so that some of the feet were not iambs but were stressed differently. A trochee is a reversed iamb, a stressed beat followed by an unstressed beat (DA-dum). A pyrrhic has two unstressed beats (da-da). A spondee has two stressed beats (DUM-DUM). Elision is when adjacent words are slurred together to eliminate a beat (as when "the marriage" becomes "th'marriage.")
    So, to answer your question, I think the meter is changed entirely. The usual reading is:
    LET me NOT to the MARriage of TRUE MINDS (Troche, troche, iamb, pyrrhic, spondee.) With Vendler's reading, I would suggest: Let ME not TO the MARriage of TRUE minds (all iambs). Note the change from a highly irregular meter to a perfect iambic pentameter.

  2. Oops. Counted my beats wrong there. The reading with Vendler's version is: iamb, iamb, iamb, pyrrhic, troche. Not a completely regular rhythm, but much more regular than the usual reading. (Sorry, I got lazy and did not put / lines in between the feet, which helps when figuring out what is what.)

  3. Willshill says:

    Does the overly strong voicing of 'me', necessary to get the point across successfully, then do anything dynamically to the rest of the line? It seems that 'not' could be affected (though less so in weight) in succession, and could possibly create a trochee in combination with 'to'. 'to the' becomes almost elided, and pyrrhic as it would then stand. It seems a temptation, anyway, to read it that way. (?)

  4. Willshill says:

    To answer your question honestly Carl, a little of both I suppose. But it's one of my favorite subjects as well, so I'm quite possibly "shillin" for meself as well. I do think it's an important topic that's often ignored at the peril of Shakespeare and also of anyone interested in understanding what he might have been doing.
    I thought I heard some possible variations, but as you can see, the change in the "regular" analysis prompted me to look for its affect closer to its initial occurrence.

    On the subject of 'correct' scansion, it seems that the sometimes many different viewpoints would make it difficult for someone like yourself to come to any absolute conclusions. As important as it can be to interpretation, did you sometimes find yourself at hair-pulling over some of it? 🙂

    P.S. Your expertise is much appreciated, as the application–even for someone such as myself, with not a little experience in the technique– can often be confusing as well as enlightening. Thanks

  5. Well, I don't think I got to the point of hair-pulling, but of course it can be difficult to decide how to "scan" a poem (i.e., decide on its rhythm). With meter, the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain and many interpretations are possible. And sometimes the differences are very subtle. In our example, reading TRUE MINDS or TRUE minds is a very slight difference in emphasis. There are other situations where the difference between a spondee and an iamb is more striking, but subtleties like this are common. I often bring up such variations in readings in my commentary to point out the fluidity possible in metrical interpretation.
    Some sonnets I had no trouble scanning and I would feel very secure that my reading was the best I could come up with (like a pianist deciding he had an interpretation down just right). That doesn't mean it was the correct reading, just my best reading. Other sonnets, I might read a different way each time I approach it, just because I am ambivalent about what is best. On the other hand, I have come across scansions by other editors that I have thought were just dead wrong. If a reading makes a sonnet sound bad, or violates principles that Shakespeare otherwise abides by religiously, one must view it skeptically.

  6. Willshill says:

    One more question and I'll stop bugging you–for now…:)

    I know this is about the sonnets but I think there's a definite connection vis a vis Shakespeare's form. It's thrilling to find someone so interested in the importance of the original texts in that regard. I'm curious if you're familiar with Dr. Richard Flatter's work on the plays, specifically the First Folio, re: scansion?

  7. I am not familiar with Richard Flatter. The only authors I have read on Shakespeare's meter are George T. Wright* (brilliant), Peter Ramsey (interesting if you don't take him too strictly) and Marina Tarinskaja (barely understandable). Do you have a reference? I am always interested.

    *"Shakespeare's Metrical Art"–a must buy for those interested in the topic.

  8. Willshill says:

    There are booksellers who have it. I found a not expensive copy on the net. "Shakespeare's Producing Hand" , Richard Flatter. First published 1948 by W W Norton-I have a 1969 Greenwood Press first printing. The basis for his findings was a theoretical part of my stage training. (no–it wasn't THAT long ago) I only this past year went looking for the book.
    Flatter's something of a genius at illustrating Shakespeare's handling of blank verse and how it was geared to the dramatics, while still embodying the essence of the poetic form. He shows quite clearly how he was the iconoclast among dramatic poets. And also, why the academicians needn't have bothered to "fix" (attempt to make pristine iambus out of it) what would otherwise seem as though it had been written by an illiterate hack who couldn't count to ten or "finish" a line in the right number of feet. Great stuff.

  9. Ok i believe that sonnet 116 should be taken in context with 115: Those lines that i before have writ do lie, and 117 Accuse me thus!

    You can find a parallel with sonnets 15, 16, and 17.

    Also this first line is a run-on and that cannot be ignored in the speaking of it. I think the phrasal aspect overrules the metrical aspect.

    As such the let ME reading doesn't sit well in the ear. think on other similar uses of 'let me' in the sonnets.

    'let me' , unless it is imperative, is never stressed.

    let me excuse thee
    oh let me suffer
    let me confess that
    oh let me true in love
    in the number let me pass untold
    no, let me be obsequious

    let not my love
    let not winter's ragged hand
    not let that copy die
    let no unkind

    (there are another 17 or so locutions with 'let' in Q1609 Sonnets followed by unstressed pronouns and one adjective)

    arguably the personal pronoun could be stressed but my training taught me not to.

    I have not heard this sonnet with the stress as carl is suggesting and seeing as it comes at the very beginning of the first line, the idea of the actor setting in to what is a run-on line by stressing the second syllable already stilts it.

    i prefer the phrasing: let me not/ to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments. And damn the metre.

    He ran the line on for a reason. His line is impeded by admitting impediments.

    See how the stress lies on the iambic at the beginning of the 2nd line and the stress lies with the 'ped' which is the latin root 'foot' is it not?

    metrics be damned our man seems to be saying. (He knew his metrics btw Abraham Fraunce off the top of my head)

    Add to the above the parallelism of the 2nd line running on to the end of the third line it requires the actor to pause (caesura) and steady his mind for the antitheses about to come.

    love/not love alters/alteration and remover/remove in the 4th lineto end this very busy first quatrain.

    sorry this is so convoluted but i love this stuff too and i have to go to work so i'm throwing ideas out. I guess i'm agreeing with willshill's first comment about the dynamics.

    I appreciate good scholarship like Carl is presenting but i also know the world of acting and its effect and affect on lines the writer may have thought inviolable. That this sonnet becomes mawkish is the fault of the actor delivering it.

    look forward to hearing a reply.

  10. Willshill says:

    let me not/ to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments. And damn the metre.

    personally, I don't think the meter be damned in that reading.

    Sometimes an implied but unvoiced "O" (or other emotional inference ) is implied by Shakespeare in his dramatic work, to the beginning of a "headless" line; (one in which there seems to be a missing beat) simply as a starting point; sort of an invivible head of steam to carry into the the beginning, and as a transitional segue FROM somewhere. In this case, the thought which preceeds the opening of one's mouth to speak it.

    Thought of this way here–not literally, of course, but as a way to help in the realistic voicing of Carl's reading (which I like a lot)– we get an invisible half of a reversed front foot: (O) let ME
    The character of the emotional intent of the "O" would of course be implied by the speaker. It's much, much, quicker than the length of an actual beat– (almost) imperceptible.
    I still feel as though the "not"
    would be affected somehow even in this case, as a realistic support for the emphasis given to "me".
    And as YLS noted, there is a
    rhetorical pause inferred between "not/to" (I always look for those consonant "separations" for help and inspiration, as I was taught to do, and almost every time find something to think about in them).

    With the emphasis on ME,

    (O) let ME NOT to the MAR riage of/TRUE MINDS

    is initially how I heard it.

    Seemingly out of place spondaic feet, and indeed, even three strong beats in succession aren't unusual occurrences– in the plays, at least.
    As Carl has said, ambivalence can sometimes rule interpretation. I believe that ambivalence to be Shakespeare's gift to his actors. Possibly some of the same feeling bled through, as force of habit, in his construction of the sonnets? He was an actor first, then a "director", then an author–in that order, I believe.
    And I was taught to look first, not for the limitations, but rather for the Choices "imposed" on the line by Shakespeare.
    Of course, it's up to me as an actor to prove the possible legitimacy of those choices in the actual voicing of them.

  11. This is great stuff! Don't focus too much on the specifics of the meter, though. Be willing to accept variations and all is good. YLS, I do not see your point about the run-on line, since I think it flows nicely:
    Let ME/ not TO/ the MAR/ riage of/ TRUE minds/
    ad MIT/ im PED/ i MENTS./LOVE is/ not LOVE/ etc.
    We have iamb/iamb/iamb/pyrrhic/trochee
    then iamb/iamb/iamb/trochee/iamb.
    I am more impressed with your argument about the frequency with which "let me" is pronounced with an unstressed "me." This is certainly how one would read this at first sight. So perhaps we can keep the usual irregular reading and just put in a petulant tone. I think it works as well in effect and keeps from jarring the ear in the way that bothers you. It also gives Willshill the emphasis on NOT he is looking for.
    But, please folks, remember, the sonnets are not just read by actors, they are read by readers. Anyone can do this.
    One more thing, YLS, I appreciate your looking for context in surrounding sonnets, but the interrelationships among the sonnets are quite complex. Some of them are clearly in groups that relate to one another, some of them are doublets written as a pair (and there is even one triplet), some are linked by theme, some by verbal similarities, but some have no clear relation to others. There is nothing about 115 or 117 that makes me feel they have a contextual relationship to 116. Is there something in particular that draws them together for you, or is it just their proximity in the series?

  12. And just to stir the pot a bit, there is no reason why my original metrical interpretation of Vendler's reading could not be the exception that proves the rule, i.e., the one time that Shakespeare does emphasize "me" in "let me." It just strongly depends on our imagining ourselves coming in in the middle of a conversation whose beginning we have not been privy to, but must infer. This is possible, but it is pure supposition, or fancy, if you will. It is also interesting, intriguing, and I think fun, because it makes us think about the sonnet in an entirely different way. Of course, that doesn't make it right. It just makes it worthy of our attention. The standard reading still has a quiet, beautifully restrained loveliness to it. I often read it both ways.

  13. Willshill says:

    " Be willing to accept variations and all is good."

    Carl, there will be some (most probably, many) that will question the veracity of the following statement:
    But you just made my day with the one I quoted above.

  14. Vocabulary parallels:
    i before have writ/I never writ
    change decress + alt'ring things/alters…alteration
    time's tyranny/love's not Time's fool
    strong minds/true minds

    vows/bonds (legal terminology)
    love you dearer/your dearest love
    full flame + full growth/wilfulness
    upon me prove/on just proof + strive to prove
    strong minds/true minds/unknown minds

    Imagery 116/117:
    ev'ry wandering bark/hoisted sail to all the winds

    To me it reads like a triptych where
    in 115 the poet reflects on why he feels his poetry can never express his fullest love. Time creeps in as antagonist. Love as a babe (cupid) is invoked to prove the whole ie it never stops growing.

    In 116 is the flip side of 115 how negation works on love. Their love (which by this point in the sequence is falling apart, is held together seemingly only by the poet's love) is examined and and shown not to be affected by time's tyranny. His writing proves it so. though that gives the first line of 115 the lie.

    In 117 he calls out the FYM for not accepting the love he is offering despite admitting his guilt that he has strayed from his subject. In the end his appeal is to show the FYM's love as the most important thing.

    That binds them together for me. The 1st opens the argument of love battling time for the sake of the FYM (a red line in many other sonnets too).
    The 2nd continues the argument and introduces the nautical metaphor closing with the legal metaphor.
    The 3rd runs with legal metaphor echoes the nautical and personalises the whole to the ingrate who receives them.

    Sort of how dare you how double dare you i did it all for you.

    The complexities of these sonnets are not unbeknown to me. I have them memorised and practice them daily. and i love these discussions.

    more later.

    Dear shakespeare geek,
    i'm unsure as to whether my comment has posted or not. sorry for being a techno-knob if i keep sending too many.


  15. Yeah stir the pot.
    Only one triplet? Which?
    Obviously not 15, 16, 17.

    Your point about the reader is well taken and the distinction i want to make is that they were written for actor and reader, by an actor, reader, and writer. And his name was Will. (Solipsism abounds here)

    This doesn't mean only actors read them the 'correct' way. it means they were written by somebody who in his craft embodied those attributes. and therefore one might find clues derived from such practices, in addition to the holy broken chalice of metrics.

    Willshill pointed out the phonetic stop/poise of the tongue at alveolar ridge of
    'let me not / to the marriage of true minds'
    from which ridge it rarely strays for the rest of the line.
    physics demands it i.e. place and manner of articulation;

    the actor/reaader (it matters not which) can manipulate this moment, the release of air, tongue and vowel. (long, short, sharp etc) And all this quicker than lightning.

    After all how long does it take to say final t/initial t?
    do you release it and say it again thereby making two distinct t's: one final/ one initial.

    or do you hold the oh of not and make a big fat t that ends the one word and starts the other at the same time.

    Either way something physical is happening. A pause is being created however slight.

    there is somebody at the reins of the verse line steering it as best they can.

    This is a place where the writer manipulates the actor/reader.

    however he pronounced his words, or you do.

    Right down to the microscopic aspect of the phoneme and the dynamics of tongue blade stopping the gap at Alveolar Ridge.

    I believe our writer acknowledged the action of his words as he composed them. this moment where thought and action meet and become one. Creating silence within sound, sight within hearing.

    knowing that all tongues must stop at not/ to.. and builds it into the artifice of his edifice for amusement's sake.

    So the phonetics is a kind of punctuation if you will. This is not to the exclusion of any other method of examining the sonnets.

    Like you Carl i don't have any sonnet that i hate.
    except maybe 145 because it just reeks of I don't belong here in this sequence.

    unless to accompany the huzzif, in modern spelling housewife, running after the chicken in 143. Why did the chicken run away? Why did it want to cross the road?

    ok maybe a' hate sonnet 90 too. Away.
    Not so fast!
    The triplet, doctor? Which will live?

  16. Willshill says:

    "Which will live?"

    "I believe our writer acknowledged the action of his words as he composed them. this moment where thought and action meet and become one. Creating silence within sound, sight within hearing."

    –And it's literal–or so I truly believe.

    Beethoven hearing the pianissimo he only saw, Mozart seeing the notes he'd memorized before they had finished buzzing in his larynx.

    "Which WILL Live?"

    Every one of Him it would appear, YLS. For no one here forgets to

    Marke the Musicke.

    Many thanks for this wonderful discussion.

  17. The triplet is 91/92/93. They read as one poem with the syntax continuing from the beginning of the first through the end of the last.

    That is an interesting analysis of 115-117. Of course, all the interrelationships that you highlight are there and that is a perfectly reasonable why to bridge this series of sonnets together. However, I see the triumph over time occurring within 115 itself. The speaker doesn't really believe his own words (he calls himself a liar at the outset). The poem is one big joke: "I lied when I said I could not love you more; my love is always growing so I love you more and more each day!"
    What separates these poems for me is their tone. 115 is jocular. 116 is either serious (standard reading) or petulant (Vendler's reading). 117 is, well, scolding is the best term I can come up with.
    Needless to say, I am not implying that I am right and you are wrong, I am trying to emphasize how different readers can have very different experiences reading the same sonnets, even with very close readings. I think it is enriching to look at different points of view. Don't you?

    And, oh, I sympathize with you about 145. Peter Ramsey, however, quite likes this sonnet. He calls it “charming and flawless, a little masterpiece of tone.” And Seymour-Smith says “it makes a pleasant enough interlude in this waste of shame” (quoting, of course, from Sonnet 129).

    I will, however, defend Sonnet 90 against all detractors. What a brilliant couplet, those "other strains of woe"!!!

  18. Hi again,

    I'd like to say how much I've enjoyed this little round of discussing sonnet 116.

    Carl, yes i think it is imporytant to keep an open mind on how opinions differ, with a proviso that no one is 100% correct.

    I love how protective people are with their version of Shakespeare.

    I was just joshing about sonnet 90 (btw definitely a pair with 89) and 145 both of which contain 'hate'. It's rare to find poeple who can share an in-joke on the sonnets.

    Anyway your triplet i put within the series 91-96. The rhetorical opener ín 91: some glory in their birth', some in their skill, and closer in 96: some say thy fault is youth, some wantoness.

    The differences in tone don't bother me. They are part and parcel of the actor's palette,
    different days different moods.

    Like I say i'm more about performing them. And yes that is one kick-ass final couplet. My favourite has to be sonnet 81 f.c.
    'You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen)
    Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.'

  19. Well, that's a good favorite couplet. But I can't possibly choose one favorite, so I'll pick two:
    29: For thy sweet love remembred such wealth brings/ That then I scorne to change my state with kings.

    23: O learne to read what silent love hath writ/ To heare with eies belongs to loves fine wit.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Reading these comments has been very insightful. I am rather new to the reading and observation of the Sonnets, and I am curious about the opinions of Willshill, catkins and YLS concerning the authors participation in the 1609 printing process, and whether any of you believe that the apparent incorrect number for 116 (119) was accidental or purposeful, I believe it was purposeful.


  21. Anonymous says:

    I don't believe Shakespeare had a hand in the printing process of his sonnets, though i don't exclude the possibility.

    His two narrative poems on the other hand I believe he saw through the press. The dedications attest to this care. Compare sonnet 26 to the dedication for The Rape of Lucrece.

    This press belonged to his erstwhile school buddy, Richard Field and is presumably the place where Shakespeare did a lot of reading.

    The big printing errors and 'mistakes' are the duplication of the final couplet in sonnets 36 and 96,
    'But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
    as thou being mine, mine is thy good report'

    And the repetition of the last words of the first line and beginning of the second line in sonnet 146,
    the phrase 'my sinful earth'.

    The numerical anomaly you point out I noticed when I first read through an original Quarto. It looked/s to me the type of error a busy/tired compositor would make. Compositors actually set the type and Mac Donald P. jackson has tentatively identified the two compositors who set Q1609 Sonnets. He has a great paper on it and you can read the first page here:

    Obviously Mac D. doesn't believe the punctuation of the sonnets gives a clue to the reading of them as I like to think but hey.

    Thanks for asking this question and let us know why you think this anomaly of 116 119 was purposeful.


    William S.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Wouldn't the author have to be deeply involved in the printing process in order for us to make these intensely involved critiques of every syllable, rhyme and meter? Do we believe that Thorpe got his hands on an original handwritten copy of the sonnets, from the poet's pen?

    Sonnets 116/119 and 119 are on opposite sides of the same leaf, and they share 5 lines of type with each other, starting with "Within his bending sickles compasse come," with the word 'sickles' under the number 119. These two sonnets are tied together in a fascinating and dramatic interaction, implied by the words and meanings in each. I won't give it away yet, in case you want to give it a go first. Let me know if you just want me to tell you my observation.


  23. I think it very unlikely that Shakespeare had anything to do with the printing of The Sonnets. There are far too many errors for the author to have had any careful involvement in the process. The printer almost certainly worked from a handwritten copy given the numerous "their" for "thy" errors, presumambly due to a misread contraction (noted in other works of the era by Malone). It is a very easy compositor's error to print a "9" instead of a "6." When a page is finished, the print must be taken out of the form and "distributed" back into the case. If the compositor is not careful, he might take a 6 out and forget what it was, look at it and think it was a 9 and put it in the "9" box instead of the "6" box, leading to a "foul case" error. When reaching in the "6" box to make the number "116" he would put it in the form thinking it was a 6, but would orient it properly for the character as a "9" because of the notch on the stem put there for the purpose of guiding him. This is a much better theory than imagining Shakespeare overseeing the printing, indicating the number of the sonnets, and specifying that the 116th should be misnumbered 119. (Most likely, the sonnets had no numbers before they were printed; if they were numbered, and one were numbered out of order, the compositor would likely "correct" it.)

  24. BTW, I disagreee with Professor Jackson that there were two compositors of The Sonnets. See my article: The Application of Bibliographical Principles to the Editing of Punctuation in Shakespeare’s “Sonnets”
    Author(s): Carl D. Atkins
    Source: Studies in Philology, Vol. 100, No. 4 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 493-513.

  25. Anonymous says:

    What do you think of the last line on the next to the last page of the long poem 'A Lovers Complaint' that reads: "That not a heart which in his levell came,", that is followed 5 lines later with the line that reads: "When he most burnt in hart-wisht luxurie," and when you look through the word 'hart' to the other side of the page, it is exactly centered in the word 'leaveld' in the line that reads: "Whose sights till then were leaveld on my face,". The letters 'h a r t' align with the letters 'e v a e' (the letters in reverse order when looking through the page). This perfect alignment only occurs in the copy at the John Rylands Library, the two others that I have access to, are at the Folger Shakespeare Libray (online), and their alignments are not as exact. The reason that the John Rylands copy is so exact may have to do with the inscription at the bottom of the last page, which has an interesting alignment of it's own.


  26. Hi Carl,

    I'd love to read your article refuting Mac D. only the website that holds it is great for institutions not for individuals ie you have to pay.

    I'll look next time I'm at the university of amsterdam to see if they have a hard copy and photocopy it.

    Something tells me that i may have read it before but i'll let you know on that.

    And Dave you'll have to expound further on your theory about 116 and 119 as I don't see it on my copy of Q1609.


  27. Anonymous says:

    Hi Will,

    I use the Folger Library Digital copies online to view the text closely enough (zoom) to be able to see the text through the text on the reverse side of the page, while having the reverse side of the page open also to be able to read reverse text more completely. To give you a hint, I found the 6th and 7th syllables of line one of Sonnet 116/119 to be a key indicator, along with many of the phrases in Sonnet 116/119. The 'bending sickles compass'/'119' alignment begs the question: is it to 'reap what you sow' or 'sow what you'd reap'?


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