I’ve been in a couple discussions recently about who authored Shakespeare’s plays and poems. It struck me that sonnet 145 is a interesting bit of evidence in this debate. On a separate track, I first came across this sonnet when reading about Shakespeare’s relationship to his wife Anne. Any biographical speculations aside, I really enjoy the poem’s simple style and content.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 145

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’
To me that languish’d for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying ‘not you.’

The following commentary is mostly from wikipedia:

The poet’s lover starts to say that she hates him despite his devotion to her. However, as soon as she saw the effect of these words, she repented, and changed the phrase “I hate” by adding “not you.”

This sonnet is unique in the collection for its iambic tetrameter (instead of pentameter). Critics consider it one of Shakespeare’s slightest works. Its fairly simple language and syntax, along with the oddity of the meter, have led to suggestions that it was written much earlier than the other, more mature, sonnets.

Though it is placed within the “Dark Lady” sequence, it has been claimed that the poem was originally written for Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. This was first proposed by Andrew Gurr in 1971. Gurr suggested that the words “hate away” [in the second to last line] may be a pun (in Elizabethan pronunciation) on “Hathaway”. The next words, “And saved my life”, [in the last line] would have been indistinguishable in pronunciation from “Anne saved my life.”

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