Sonnet 133

Shakespeare Sonnet 133

BEſhrew that heart that makes my heart to groane
For that deepe wound it giues my friend and me;
I’ſt not ynough to torture me alone,
But ſlaue to ſlauery my ſweet’ſt friend muſt be.
Me from my ſelfe thy cruell eye hath taken,
And my next ſelfe thou harder haſt ingroſſed,
Of him, my ſelfe, and thee I am forſaken,
A torment thrice three-fold thus to be croſſed:
Priſon my heart in thy ſteele boſomes warde,
But then my friends heart let my poore heart bale,
Who ere keepes me, let my heart be his garde,
Thou canſt not then vſe rigor in my Iaile.
And yet thou wilt, for I being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine and all that is in me.

Sonnets 133 and 134 treat of a triangle of characters, a motif first developed in Sonnets 39-42. Sonnet 133 is marked by a range of petrarchist conventions including, as in Sonnets 57 and 58, allusions to Cupid, figured as both slave and slavemaster (“slaue to slauery”), whose ability to wound deeply made him a master of groans (see Sonnet 57 for the trope’s origin in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria and compare Shakespeare’s depiction of Cupid as “soueraigne of sighes and groanes” [LLL 3.1.172]). Cupid and mistresses wounded lovers through eye-glances, such as those in Spenser’s Amoretti 12.9, “The sweet eye-glaunces, that like arrowes glide,” and 49.1-2, “Fayre cruell, why are ye so fierce and cruell? / Is it because your eyes haue powre to kill.”

Sonnet 133’s opening, “Beshrew that heart,” is either a curse, ‘cursed be that heart,’ or something less severe, ‘mischief take thy heart,’ (compare MND 5.1.290, “Beshrew my heart, but I pittie the man”). The mistress’ heart has caused the poet’s “heart to groane,” not because it weighs down but because (“For that”) of a “deepe wound.” The wound must be non-physical because it attaches to both “my friend and me,” although it has been argued by Booth that the phrase describes the female sexual organ, that has been given to both poet and friend. The poet plaintively asks, “I’st not ynough to torture me alone,” the image of “torture” being continued through “torment,” “ingrossed,” “crossed,” “Prison,” and “warde.” As well the poet’s “sweet’st friend” has become a “slaue to slauery,” either to the mistress as slave-mistress or to Cupid as slave-master.

Her “cruell eye” has wrenched the poet from himself and has affected his “next selfe,” his friend, whom she “harder has[t] ingrossed.” To ‘ingross’ was to ‘monopolize’ or corner the market, so the mistress has wholly taken ownership of the friend. But to ‘ingross’ also meant to enlarge or thicken and was used physically, of melancholic humours that ingross the eyes or make them rheumy. 1 It was also used sexually: in Marston’s Parasitaster or The fawne, Amorosus is accused of engrossing his loins with a variety of 17th century aphrodisiacs “And yet I heare sir Amorosus, you cherish your loynes with high art, the onely ingrosser of Eringoes, prepar’d Cantharides, Cullesses made of dissolued Pearle, and brus’d Amber.” To ‘ingross’ could also mean to ‘enclose’ as a grave encloses a body (compare Spenser, Faerie Queene, “then dead the graue selfe to engrosse”) or a mistress encloses her lover: Herod in Marston’s play cries out, “Faith some score or two of Ladies or so rauish mee among them, deuide my presents, and wold indeed ingrosse me.” 2 The mistress, then, has aroused the friend or made him “harder” or she has physically taken the friend to herself. Finally, and allusively, Florio defines ‘ingross’ as to ‘make big with child.’ Under the entry for “Ingrossare” he has “to make great or bigge, to engrosse. Also as Ingrauidare, to swell,” while the entry for “Ingrauidare” reads, “to get with childe, to become big with childe.”

The poet thereby is “Of him, my selfe, and thee . . forsaken;”  he is beside himself and is bereft of friend and mistress, which is a “torment thrice three-fold thus to be crossed.” Although ‘three times three’ was a superlative, Shakespeare may have been drawn to the number, because ‘three’ was linked with “ingrossed” though its original and most-used meaning of ‘formally to inscribe’ a document or parliamentary bill which, once “ingrossed,” was required to be read three times. 3 The poet, thus separated, finds his torment triply to be “crossed,” to be ‘borne as a cross,’ but with the suggestion of ‘crucified’ as on a rack or instrument of torture; “crossed” also anticipates the legal document of “bale” or forfeiture, which in being struck out was said to be “crossed.”

The mistress is instructed to imprison the poet’s heart in the keep or jail of her unyielding breast (“steele bosomes ward”). Kept there, his heart is to be allowed to “bale” the friend’s heart, either ‘enclose’ it in his own or act as a surety or bond (“bale”) to gain the friend’s manumission. 4 (Or the subject of “bale” is “my friends heart,” which must be allowed to ‘confine’ the poet’s heart in his.) Whoever guards the poet, mistress or friend (“Who ere keepes me”), because his heart is confined in a prison, he must be allowed to govern the comings and goings as a guard on duty. The poet will be safe from the mistress applying “rigor,” either the full force of the law or her unbending heart, while he is in care; “rigor” continues the sonnet’s sexual inuendo being suggestive of an erect phallus (compare Puttenham’s depiction of the epithalamial bridegroom as a “stiffe & rigorous young man”). 5

The couplet, however, qualifies the thought: the mistress will hardheartedly bring to bear the fulness of the law and, since the poet is “pent” or shut up in her (compare Sonnet 5.10, “prisoner pent in walls”), he is through force (“perforce”) possessed by her (“am thine”), together with everything that is enclosed in him, including his friend’s heart.


133.1. Thomas Hill, The Contemplation of Mankinde, contayning a singuler discourse after the Art of Phisiognomie, on all the members and partes of man, as from the heade to the foote (London: Henry Denham, 1571) 80: “through the gathering togyther of grosse bloude and of the melancholike humour, in the eye liddes, and in the thinne skinnes compassing the eies, ingrossing or thikening them on such wise.”

133.2. John Marston, Parasitaster, or The fawne (London: Thomas Purfoot, 1606) C2v & F4v.

133.3. See Spenser, Amoretti 74.3, “three times thrise happy.” See Raphael Holinshed, The First and second volumes of Chronicles, comprising 1 The description and historie of England, 2 The description and historie of Ireland, 3 The description and historie of Scotland (London: Henry Denham, 1587) 123. The instruction to the Speaker runs, “All bils . . before they be ingrossed, and being read three times he must put the same to question.”

133.4. OED bail v 3.

133.5. Puttenham 41.