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Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel;
For well thou know'st to my dear doting heart
Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel.
Yet, in good faith, some say that thee behold
Thy face hath not the power to make love groan:
To say they err, I dare not be so bold,
Although I swear it to myself alone.
And, to be sure that is not false I swear,
A thousand groans, but thinking on thy face,
One on another's neck, do witness bear
Thy black is fairest in my judgment's place.
In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds,
And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.


CXXXI. The poet's mistress is as proud as though she were really beautiful. Others, indeed, decry her charms; but when they deny her beauty they must be looking at her conduct, which is indeed black. So far as the poet is concerned, the strength of his passion proclaims his estimate of her beauty.

6. Thy face hath not the power to make love groan. The poet's "thousand groans" (line 10) afford an answer, though, according to ordinary standards of beauty, he could not say that they are wrong (line 7) who make the assertion.

13. In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds. Cf. cxlvii. 14, "Who art as black as hell, as dark as night;" and cxliv. 4, "The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill," &c.

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2013. < >.

Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. Sidney Lee. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905.


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Thoughts on The Sonnets ... "The collection has consequently been often treated as a self-evident excerpt from the poet's autobiography.... But any strictly literal or autobiographical interpretation has to meet a formidable array of difficulties. Two general objections present themselves on the threshold of the discussion. In the first place, the autobiographic interpretation is to a large extent in conflict with the habit of mind and method of work which are disclosed in the rest of Shakespeare's achievement. In the second place, it credits the poet with humiliating experiences of which there is no hint elsewhere. ... All his dramatic writing, as well as his two narrative poems and the testimonies of his intimate associates in life, seems to prove him incapable of such a personal confession of morbid infatuation with a youth, as a literal interpretation discovers in the sonnets." (Sir Sidney Lee. Shakespeare's Sonnets. p. 9)


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