Sonnet 134

Shakespeare Sonnet 134

SO now I haue confeſt that he is thine,
And I my ſelfe am morgag’d to thy will,
My ſelfe Ile forfeit, ſo that other mine,
Thou wilt reſtore to be my comfort ſtill:
But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,
For thou are couetous, and he is kinde,
He learnd but ſuretie-like to write for me,
Vnder that bond that him as faſt doth binde.
The ſtatute of thy beauty thou wilt take,
Thou vſurer that put’ſt forth all to vſe,
And ſue a friend, came debter for my ſake,
So him I looſe through my vnkinde abuſe.
Him haue I loſt, thou haſt both him and me,
He paies the whole, and yet I am not free.

Sonnet 134 takes up where the couplet of Sonnet 133 left off, admitting that the friend is possessed by the mistress (“So now I haue confest that he is thine”), a confession extracted under the pressure of imprisonment and force. He admits also that he is now “morgag’d to thy will.” A mortgage (from mort = dead; gage = pledge) is a security that may be forfeited, if conditions are not fulfilled: if the gage is not repaid, it is dead to the debtor; if repaid, it is dead to the mortgagee. The poet has given himself up as “bale” or bond (he is both mortgagee and security) to gain the friend’s liberty. He will, then, forfeit the security of himself to the mistress as mortgagor, so that she will release to him his friend (“that other mine”), who will become his “comfort.”

The mistress, however, refuses to discharge or write off the mortgage (“But thou wilt not”) and the friend remains or chooses to remain in her possession (“nor he will not be free”). Her motive is possessiveness or greed (“For thou art couetous”); his being bound is because he is generous (“kinde”): when once acting on the poet’s behalf as his surety or guarantor (“suretie-like”), he learnt to affix the poet’s name to a contract (“to write for me”), only to find that its terms bound him just as tightly (“Vnder that bond that him as fast doth binde”). The implication is that the friend, while suing the mistress in the poet’s name, fell under her thrall and became as tightly enslaved to her.

The mercantile metaphor is retained in the sestet: “The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take.” A “statute,” particularly a ‘statute merchant,’ was a bond in which a creditor could retain a debtor’s property in case of default; hence the mistress will observe exactly the terms of the bond, which her beauty set up, including the forfeiture to her of the friend. She is a money-lender (“vsurer”) who puts her whole self to “vse,” to advantage, to gain the maximum interest, even to sexual use. She is prepared to “sue a friend,” either to seek legal redress for default against the friend, or to pursue the friend, or to lay suit or woo the friend, who only became indebted to her for the sake of the poet (“came debtor for my sake”). The result is that the poet ‘loses’ or, possibly, ‘lets go’ (“loose”) the friend through forfeiture to the mistress, an act characterized as an “vnkinde abuse” in contrast to the friend’s “kinde” nature. Finally the poet admits to loss of the friend (“Him haue I lost”) and to the mistress’ possession of both (“thou hast both him and me”). The friend has forfeited his whole self (“He paies the whole”), which should have lead to the poet’s release, but hasn’t: “yet I am not free.”

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