home contact


What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
Distill'd from lymbecks foul as hell within,
Applying fears to hopes, and hopes to fears,
Still losing when I saw myself to win!
What wretched errors hath my heart committed,
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never!
How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted
In the distraction of this madding fever!
O benefit of ill! now I find true
That better is by evil still made better;
And ruin'd love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
   So I return rebuk'd to my content,
   And gain by ills thrice more than I have spent.


CXIX. Manifestly in connection with what precedes. The poet, it would seem, had been deceived and ensnared by woman's tears. Entangled by such wiles, he had committed one error after another, and had proved the truth of his own words (cxxix.) --
"Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and prov'd, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos'd; behind, a dream."
The details alluded to seem hopelessly obscure; but it is probable that we are here brought close to the causes of the scandal to which cxii. and cxxi. relate. In the end the poet learned to prize more highly than ever before the love of his friend.

1. Drunk. The tears had influenced him so thoroughly, that they had been, as it were, imbibed.

2. Lymbecks. Alembics or stills. Foul as hell within. Cf. what is said of the poet's dark mistress in the second series of Sonnets, "In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds" (cxxxi. 13); "Who art as black as hell, as dark as night" (cxlvii. 14).

3. Now letting fear give way to hope, and now hope to fear.

4. Still losing, &c. Probably on account of the unworthiness of the objects won.

7. Fitted. "Worked and vexed by paroxysms." SCHMIDT. Comparison has been made of Pericles, Act ii. so. i, line 58, "If it be a day fits you," &c. But there appears to be in our passage the idea of strange surprises.

8. This madding fever. Cf. "My love is as a fever," &c., and,
"Past cure I am, now reason is past cure,
And frantic mad with evermore unrest," &c. (cxlvii.)
10. That better, &c. The better love is manifestly the love to his friend.

13. To my content. With a feeling of contentment and satisfaction.

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2013. < >.

Even More...

 Stratford School Days: What Did Shakespeare Read?
 Games in Shakespeare's England [A-L]
 Games in Shakespeare's England [M-Z]
 An Elizabethan Christmas
 Clothing in Elizabethan England

 Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare's Patron
 King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
 The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
 Going to a Play in Elizabethan London

 Ben Jonson and the Decline of the Drama
 Publishing in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Audience
 Religion in Shakespeare's England

 Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Day
 Entertainment in Elizabethan England
 London's First Public Playhouse
 Shakespeare Hits the Big Time

More to Explore

 Introduction to Shakespeare's Sonnets
 Shakespearean Sonnet Style
 How to Analyze a Shakespearean Sonnet
 Theories Regarding the Sonnets
 The Rules of Shakespearean Sonnets

 Shakespeare's Sonnets: Q & A
 Are Shakespeare's Sonnets Autobiographical?
 Petrarch's Influence on Shakespeare
 Themes in Shakespeare's Sonnets

 Shakespeare's Greatest Love Poem
 Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton
 The Order of the Sonnets
 The Date of the Sonnets


Notes on Sonnet 147 ... Shakespeare's scathing attack upon the morality of his mistress exemplifies their tumultuous and perplexing relationship. The three quatrains outline the poet's inner struggle to cope with both his lover's infidelity and the embarrassing self-admission that he still desires her to gratify him sexually, even though she has been with other men. The poet yearns to understand why, in spite of the judgment of reason, he still is enslaved by her charms. Confused by his own inexplicable urges, the poet's whole being is at odds with his insatiable "sickly appetite" for the dark lady. Read on...


 Who was Mr. W. H.?
 Are all the Sonnets addressed to two Persons?
 Who was The Rival Poet?

 Shakespeare Glossary
 Shakespeare Quotations (by Play and Theme)
 Shakespeare's Edward III?

 Shakespeare's Trap Doors
 Shakespeare's Boss
 Shakespeare Hits the Big Time
 Shakespeare's Villains


Compounds Strange ... The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust allowed South African research scientists from the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria to analyze twenty-four pipe fragments found on the grounds of William Shakespeare's home. The findings, published in the South African Journal of Science, show that eight of the pipes tested contain traces of cannabis and two of the pipes contain traces of cocaine. Others appear to be laced with tobacco, camphor, and hallucinogenic nutmeg extracts high in myristic acid. Did Marijuana Fuel Shakespeare's Genius?