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Sonnet 137
Sonnet 137
by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 137 Theme of Lies and Deceit

If love is the center of Sonnet 137’s thematic universe, lies and deceit are pretty much everything orbiting around it. Switching metaphors, you could say that this poem operates like a set of Russian dolls, with each (or practically each) layer of deception that gets stripped away revealing another layer of deception hidden beneath it. The speaker manages to make lots of accusations of deception in these short fourteen lines. He blames the god of Love, his own eyes and heart, and himself before finally launching an attack straight at the source of all his heartache—his two-timing mistress. He may be insane with heartache, but the dude gets marks for being thorough and efficient!

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Do you think the speaker has gotten rid of all the lies and deceit by the end of the poem, or is he still in some way deceived? 
  2. Who or what is the most deceitful figure in this poem?
  3. Of all the deceptions in the poem—by Love, by the speaker’s "eyes," and by his "heart"—which one do you think makes the speaker most angry?
  4. Based on the poem, would you say that the speaker’s lady-friend has been deceitful to him? Is it even possible to tell?

Chew on This

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

The poem makes it seem as if the woman has not deceived the speaker. Instead, it looks like the speaker has been deceived (by Love, and by his own eyes and heart) about the woman. Oof. That's a tough pill to swallow.

The poem does not give us enough evidence to say conclusively that the woman in question has, or has not, deceived the speaker. The speaker is too wrapped up in himself to give us any meaningful context. Thanks a lot, ya big jerk.

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