Sonnet 135

Shakespeare Sonnet 135

WHo euer hath her wiſh, thou haſt thy Will,
And Will too boote, and Will in ouer-plus,
More then enough am I that vexe thee ſtill,
To thy ſweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou whoſe will is large and ſpatious,
Not once vouchſafe to hide my will in thine,
Shall will in others ſeeme right gracious,
And in my will no faire acceptance ſhine:
The ſea all water, yet receiues raine ſtill,
And in aboundance addeth to his ſtore,
So thou beeing rich in Will adde to thy Will,
One will of mine to make thy large Will more.
Let no vnkinde, no faire beſeechers kill,
Thinke all but one, and me in that one Will.

Sonnets 135 and 136 give the impression of being pieces of juvenilia, in which the bawdy sometimes threatens to overwhelm the wit. The sonnets’ primary pun lies with the word “Will” which can mean any, or any permutation of, the following: 1. desire; 2. physical desire or lust; 3. will, the future tense; 4. the vagina; 5. the penis; 6. the name William. The last meaning is the most problematic: if every time “Will” is used (the quarto randomly italicizes it), it conjures up a name, then the sonnet is populated by a number of Williams, including a William who is possibly the mistress’ lover, or her husband. Equally it might be argued that the only William involved is Shakespeare (although nothing autobiographical can be gleaned from the sonnets).

The sonnet opens, “Who euer hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,” which draws on the proverb, ‘Women will have their wills.’ 1 The poet claims that, ‘whatever other woman may have obtained her desire,’ the mistress has her “Will,” her desire, her William, her vagina, the penis she possesses. She has “Will too boote,” abundantly or additionally; she has “Will in ouer-plus,” in surplus or over-supply (mathematically anticipating the sonnets’ later counting motif). What is sufficient for her is the poet who continues to trouble (“vex”) her by “making addition thus” to her “sweet will,” her desire, possibly her William, certainly her vagina; “addition” is a shortening of the ‘prick of addition,’ a bawdy term from music and used of the penis, see the Maid’s description of the youth in Nathan Field’s Amends for Ladies, “all additions are conferr’d on him, / That may delight a woman.” 2 (See also Sonnet 20 commentary).

The mistress is now questioned, “Wilt thou,” a future tense. Her “will is large and spatious:” her desire is generous and accommodating, or her vagina is wide and all-embracing (compare Lr. 4.6.271 with its visually vaginal “O,” “O indistinguish’d space of Womans will”). Will she not but once allow herself (“vouchsafe”) secretly to enclose the poet’s desire (“will”) in hers or to hide his penis (“will”) in her vagina (“in thine”)? Shall “will in others,” their desire or strength of will, appear more attractive (“seeme right gracious”), with a hint of ‘phallically upright and erect’ (the phrase, “As right as a rammes horne,” was proverbial, see John Skelton, a litle boke called Colyn Clout, “They say many matters be borne / By the right of a rammes horne”)? 3 Will “no faire acceptance,” no welcoming reception, be bestowed on (“shine” on) his “will,” his desire, his penis?

The ocean is cited as an example to be followed: although the sea is “all water,” it continues to receive rain and “adds” to its store “in aboundance;” “aboundance” (from abundo (ab + unda = from a wave) is an overflowing from the ocean (see Sonnet 1.7 for its sexual significance). Similarly the mistress: she is “rich in Will,” in desire, in lust, in penises, (in a man/men called William[?]), and should “adde” to her “Will,” her desire, her lust, her vagina, “One will of mine,” the poet’s desire, lust, or penis (with a play on “One” as a figure of the phallus), thus making her “large Will more” as happens with the ocean.

The couplet is imprecisely punctuated: “Let no vnkinde, no faire beseechers kill.” Either ‘let no unkind “no” kill faire beseechers,’ or ‘let no unkind no fair beseechers kill (i.e. ‘let no unkind[ness] kill any beseechers’), or ‘let no unkind “No” (the mistress as a nothing) kill faire beseechers.’ The “faire beseechers” are suitors who seek “faire acceptance.” Rather, concludes the poet, “Thinke all but one,” think of all wills as one will, and so include me in “that one Will,” that desire, lust, or vagina, or number him among her wills, those named William, thus anticipating the conclusion to Sonnet 136.


135.1. See Tilley W723.

135.2. Nathan Field, Amends for Ladies. With the Humour of Roring (London: George Eld, 1618) A4r.

135.2. John Skelton, Here after foloweth a litle boke called Colyn Clout compiled by master Skelton Poete Laureate (London: John Day, 1558?) D5r; compare, Here after foloweth a litle booke, whiche hath to name why come ye not to courte, compiled by mayster Skelton Poete Laureate (London: Robert Toy, 1554) A3v, “As ryght as a rammes horne.” See Tilley R28.