How might one interpret Shakespeare's Sonnet 136, "If thy soul check thee that I come so near, "?

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Sonnet CXXXVI is the amorous poet's response to an antecedent situation, namely his lady's rebuff of his sexual advances. Through an elaborate - and sometimes ambiguous - wordplay on 'will' the poet makes his case: Though she has rejected him, that state of affairs is not the final one if only she would consider him a small thing, of no account in the context of men she has already known. He is after all only a name with a multiplicity of meanings; she has only to love his name - stated clearly in the second line of the couplet - and she will satisfy her surreptitious sexual desire and his open need at one and the same time:

Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is 'Will.'

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