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Study Questions

Sonnet 133 Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
  1. If Shakespeare is supposed to be one of the most original and inventive poets on the planet, why is this sonnet so full of clichés about love? (Love = being wounded, love = being enslaved, love = being a prisoner, and so on.) How do all these poetic clichés impact our experience of the poem? How do they shape our understanding of the sonnet's theme of love? How do they shape our attitude toward the speaker? 
  2. Why do you think the speaker blames his mistress and not his friend for the love triangle? 
  3. What if the speaker's mistress got a chance to respond to Sonnet 133? What do you think she'd have to say? 
  4. What the heck does the speaker mean when he calls his friend his "next self"? What does this suggest about the speaker's attitude toward male friendship?
  5. Do you think we can or should read the sonnets autobiographically? If so, why? If not, how should we approach the figures in the sonnets? Should we think of them as a cast of fictional characters? Something else? 
  6. If Shakespeare hired you to come up with a snappy title for Sonnet 133, what would it be and why?
  7. Almost all of Shakespeare's sonnets include a feature called a "turn" (a.k.a. "volta"). That's the moment in the poem where the theme or the tone changes in a sudden and surprising way. Does Sonnet 133 have a "turn"? If not, why do you think that is? If so, where does it happen and how does it impact the way we experience the poem?
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