What are the main themes of the Shakespeare's Sonnet 138?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There are two main themes in Shakespeare's Sonnet 138. The two main themes developed in the sonnet are lies and truths.

The theme of lies is developed through the double meaning used in the word "lies" within the text:

When my mistress swears that she is faithful/ I do believe her though I know she lies

Here, the speaker uses the word "lies" is a polysemy (has a double meaning). The word lies refers to the fact that she is not telling the truth and that she physically lies with other people.

Therefore, this idea of lying is thematically created through the repetitive use of the words which coincide with the term lie: deceit, foolishly, untruths, ugly truth, and disguise.

To mirror this theme, the theme of truths exists within the poem as well; although, this theme is more implicit. The speaker admits that he knows his mistress is lying, but his acceptance of her lying creates a truth for him. This theme is defined through the use of the following words: believe and pretense of truth.

It is through each's acceptance of lies and omittances of truths which both the speaker and the mistress find truth in their realtionship.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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This question has already been asked and answered here on eNotes.  Here is a link for you:  http://www.enotes.com/sonnets/q-and-a/please-tell-me-what-themes-shakespearean-sonnet-147093

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