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Love is too young to know what conscience is;
Yet who knows not, conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove.
For thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler part to my gross body's treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason,
But rising at thy name, doth point out thee
As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride,
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
No want of conscience hold it that I call
Her 'love,' for whose dear love I rise and fall.


CLI. A consciousness of where fault lies is apt to follow after love. There was danger, therefore, lest the poet's mistress should be incriminated as the cause of his bringing the nobler part of his nature under the dominion of his fleshly lusts. He asks, therefore, that the question as to the morality of his conduct shall not be raised.

l, 2. Love in its first impetuousness disregards moral considerations, but reflection and remorse follow on its fruition.

5, 6. For thou betraying me, &c. The "gentle cheater" betrays or seduces the poet into sin; and so he becomes guilty of treason against the nobler part of his nature.

9. Thy name. See note on line 14.

10. Pride. Proud conquest, alluding most likely to the lady's rank. In his triumphant prize there is probably an allusion also to the name "Fitton," the fit one.

14. Rise and fall. Rise in the triumph of the flesh, and fall in the subjugation and humiliation of the soul. It has been thought that some lines in this Sonnet were expressed so that they might be taken sensu male pudico; but whether this be so or not it is scarcely necessary to determine, though, as the lady was probably Mrs. Mary Fitton, it is not very difficult to suggest a possible play on the name in two ways. As to the possible play on "fit" compare Cymbeline, Act iv. sc. i, "For 'tis said' a woman's fitness comes by fits.'"

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

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Thoughts on sonnet order ... For the comprehension of the story of the Sonnets, it is best, I believe, to regard them as consisting of eight papers of Sonnets, really connected, but written at intervals over a series of years (from 1596 or 1597 to about 1603 is the most feasible range), these papers not indicated by breaks at the proper points when they were printed, but, with that omission, arranged there exactly in their right order, save that the last twenty-six (Sonnets 127-152) ought to be intercalated bodily between Sonnets 32 and 33. (David Masson. Shakespeare Personally. London: Smith, Elder & Co.)


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