Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare

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How might one interpret Shakespeare's Sonnet 145, "Those lips that Love's own hand did make"?

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"Sonnet 145" falls within the "Dark Lady" cycle of Shakespeare's sonnets, and describes the moment of panic experienced by the speaker when he hears "the lips that Love's own hand did make" form the words "I hate." The beloved, clearly, has a good understanding of her lover, who "languish'd for her sake;" noticing the "woeful state" in which he languishes, "straight in her heart did mercy come."

The scene is vividly drawn: the beloved begins her sentence, "I hate," and then becomes immediately aware of the anguish on her lover's face, correctly interpreting this as a fear that her sentence will end, "you." Instead, the beloved "chides" her "ever sweet" tongue, such that instead of dispensing the feared "gentle doom," it is "taught thus anew to greet."

The reader feels the relief at the same time as the poet when he explains, "'I hate' she alter'd with an end / That follow'd it as gentle day / Doth follow night." The sentence becomes something quite different in meaning...

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