Sonnet 138

An analysis of the literary devices employed by William Shakespeare and of the depth and complexity provided to “Sonnet 138” by his unique language.

This paper performs a line by line close reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138, examining the ways in which Shakespeare’s careful use of language subtly adds layers of depth to the sonnet’s meaning. The paper focuses its analysis on the themes of love, truth, lies, and self-deception the main themes of the sonnet.
In Sonnet 138, Shakespeare writes about the layers of deceit in a relationship between a man and a woman. The speaker and his lover each choose to believe the other’s lies in order to remain secure about themselves. The speaker calmly explains his complex relationship with cynical wit and resignation, and without expressing a wish to change or improve the dynamic between himself and his lover. Shakespeare plays with words surrounding the central ideas of the poem such as belief, knowledge, truth, and simplicity, creating in them layers of meaning. Shakespeare also presents the reader with paradoxes and logic-plays. Each line builds on the last, so that every line of the sonnet adds new depth and complexity to the lovers’ deceit. Also Shakespeare’s language effectively conveys the speaker’s tone and emotions through word choice and structure; Shakespeare communicates detachment and bitter humor on the part of the speaker, as well as a resigned and cynical outlook on love.