home contact


Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
   For as the sun is daily new and old,
   So is my love still telling what is told.


May be regarded as an answer to objections which the poet imagined as made against his Sonnets, or which possibly had been really made by a rival, that they contained no brilliant novelties, and that their mode of expression displayed, not versatility, but a monotonous repetition which proclaimed the author in almost every word. The poet does not deny the charge, but replies that he is always descanting on the same old theme his friend, and the constant affection he bears towards him.

1. So barren of new pride. -- So destitute of novel imagery, diction, &c.

2-4. These lines may allude to Shakespeare's unwillingness to adopt the mode of expression and the poetical form employed by his rivals.

4. The new-found methods and the compounds strange may very well refer to the novel compound words employed by Chapman to express Homeric epithets. In the Address "To the Understander" prefixed to the Shield of Achilles (1598), Chapman defends himself against the charge of introducing new words without propriety, and cites the example of Chaucer. Chapman's critics are like a brood of frogs from a ditch, desiring "to have the ceaseless flowing river of our tongue turned into their frog-pool."

6. Keep invention in a noted weed. -- Express and clothe my thoughts in the same familiar dress.

7. Tell -- Q. has "fel."

11. My best is dressing old words new. -- Making but a slight difference in the expressions. The poet, no doubt, means thus to imply the constancy of his affection.

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

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


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?


 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