home contact


O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Dost hold Time's fickle glass, his sickle, hour;
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow'st;
If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;
She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure:
   Her audit, though delay'd, answer'd must be,
   And her quietus is to render thee.


CXXVI. This Sonnet may probably have been designed, not merely as an Envoy to the Sonnets next preceding, or to Sonnets c. to cxxv., but as a conclusion to the whole of the first series. The poet's friend is warned that though Nature has hitherto preserved his beauty, and successfully resisted Time and Decay, yet that she has but a limited power, and that she must by-and-by inevitably surrender.

1. My lovely boy. It appears thus implied that Mr. W. H. is still a youth.

2. Time's fickle glass. Time's ever-shifting and changing hour-glass. His sickle hour. His hour which, like a sickle, cuts off all things beautiful. There is, of course, an allusion to the scythe or sickle with which the figure of Time is represented as armed.

3. Who hast by waning grown. Whose change with the advance of time has been a growth in beauty.

4. Thy lovers withering. As men commonly decay with advancing age.

5. Wrack. Decay.

6. Pluck thee back. Pull and keep thee back, so as to be still in youthful beauty.

8. May Time disgrace. His agency being thwarted, and his efforts rendered ineffectual. Wretched minutes kill. The "minutes" are killed or annihilated, as leaving behind them no trace of their existence.

9. Yet fear her. Do not place assured confidence in her, that is, in Nature.

10. Not still keep. Not keep continually.

11. She must render her account at last.

12. Quietus has been taken as a technical legal term, implying an acquittance or discharge of obligation. As this Sonnet has twelve lines only, the printer of the Quarto seems to have thought that two lines were lacking, and accordingly placed at the end marks of parenthesis thus:
(                )
(                )

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 10 Jan. 2014. < >.

Even More...

 Stratford School Days: What Did Shakespeare Read?
 Games in Shakespeare's England [A-L]
 Games in Shakespeare's England [M-Z]
 An Elizabethan Christmas
 Clothing in Elizabethan England

 Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare's Patron
 King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
 The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
 Going to a Play in Elizabethan London

 Ben Jonson and the Decline of the Drama
 Publishing in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Audience
 Religion in Shakespeare's England

 Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Day
 Entertainment in Elizabethan England
 London's First Public Playhouse
 Shakespeare Hits the Big Time

More to Explore

 Introduction to Shakespeare's Sonnets
 Shakespearean Sonnet Style
 Six Theories About Shakespeare's Sonnets
 How to Analyze a Shakespearean Sonnet
 The Rules of Shakespearean Sonnets

 Shakespeare's Sonnets: Q & A
 Are Shakespeare's Sonnets Autobiographical?
 Petrarch's Influence on Shakespeare
 Themes in Shakespeare's Sonnets

 Shakespeare's Greatest Love Poem
 Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton
 The Order of the Sonnets
 The Date of the Sonnets

 Who was Mr. W. H.?
 Are all the Sonnets addressed to two Persons?
 Who was The Rival Poet?


His quietus make with a bare bodkin... Unlike Hamlet's first two major soliloquies, his third and most famous speech seems to be governed by reason and not frenzied emotion. Unable to do little but wait for completion of his plan to "catch the conscience of the king", Hamlet sparks an internal philosophical debate on the advantages and disadvantages of existence, and whether it is one's right to end his or her own life. Read on....


 Shakespeare on Jealousy
 Shakespeare on Lawyers
 Shakespeare on Lust
 Shakespeare on Marriage

 Blank Verse and Diction in Shakespeare's Hamlet
 Analysis of the Characters in Hamlet
 Shakespeare on the Seasons
 Shakespeare on Sleep