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Themes

Sonnet 137’s speaker is a guy whose lady-friend is massively cheating on him. Massively, folks. So, as you might expect, betrayal is a pretty big theme. The poem doesn’t leave us in any doubt about how the speaker feels about being betrayed. He calls his mistress all kinds of nasty names and describes her with some of the raunchiest metaphors he can think of. So take that, mistress! The speaker even goes so far as to imply that she has slept with everyone in the entire world. Yipes! We don't take him literally at his word, though. That said, it could sure feel that way to our poor speaker, once he realized the truth of his lover’s betrayal.

Questions About Betrayal

  1. In which of the poem’s four sections (quatrains 1, 2, and 3, and the couplet) does the speaker seem angriest about the fact that his lady-friend betrayed him? 
  2. Do you think that the speaker will forgive this betrayal? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think the speaker is talking about in line 13? Does this statement mean that he has betrayed people in the past, too? 
  4. Based on what he has now suffered, would the speaker be justified in sleeping with somebody else? (In thinking about this question, try to imagine what the speaker’s answer to this question would be, not just your own personal answer.)

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker is angriest about being betrayed in line 13, because in line 13 he points out that the woman who betrayed him now "owns" him. That really steams his chaps.

Since the speaker admits that he himself is to blame for this betrayal, he will eventually forgive this betrayal. The poor sap.

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