How might one interpret Shakespeare's Sonnet 142, "Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,"?
Jessica Pope | Certified Educator
This sonnet expresses the unrequited love that one man feels for his beloved. The woman he loves from afar is an adultress. The sonnet includes both lavish compliments and subtle chastisement. The man has mixed feelings about his beloved and about his own love for her. In the first line, he says that "love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate." He feels that loving an adultress is a sin, and yet he cannot help himself. He sees hatred in his beloved; perhaps it is the kind of hatred need in order to commit adultry. THe man also protects himself from judgment. He says that loving her is a condition that "merits not reproach." Even though it may be wrong to love her, he knows that his beloved is in no position to pass judgment, considering her own questionable liaisons. The beloved is an object of guilt, shame, disapproval and admiration all at the same time.