Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

Sonnet CXXIX


The Music Lesson. Johannes Vermeer. 1662.

Sonnet CXXIX

William Shakespeare


How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway’st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,

Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,

At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!

To be so tickled, they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more blest than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

Sonnet XVIII

Flaming June. Lord Frederic Leighton. 1895.


Sonnet XVIII

William Shakespeare


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


Off. Edmund Blair Leighton.



William Shakespeare


Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,

And like enough thou know’st thy estimate:

The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;

My bonds in thee are all determinate.

For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?

And for that riches where is my deserving?

The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,

And so my patent back again is swerving.

Thyself thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing,

Or me, to whom thou gavest it, else mistaking;

So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,

Comes home again, on better judgement making.

Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,

In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.


In this poem, ‘dear’ means ‘costly,’ A ‘misprision’ is an erroneous judgement, especially about the value or identity of something.

‘The Quality of Mercy’

Portia and Shylock. Thomas Sully. 1835.


from The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare, 1598



The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His scepter shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptered sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself,

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy. I have spoken thus much

To mitigate the justice of thy plea,

Which is thou follow, this strict court of Venice

Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.


A Fine Picture—An inscription written on the back of the canvas indicates the relevant lines from The Merchant of Venice: Portia intreats Shylock to “Be merciful./ Take thrice thy money; and bid me tear the bond.” But Shylock, holding the scale in which he intends to weigh a pound of flesh cut from Antonio, scowls at Portia and points at the bond that secures his claim. The dramatic scene is romantically painted; the focus is on the fair Portia, not effectively disguised here as a doctor of law.

A Little Poetry—The Merchant of Venice is Shakespeare’s great tragic-comedy, performed as early as 1596, and first published in 1660. The lovesick Bassanio borrows money from his friend Antonio (the eponymous merchant) in order to impress the lady he loves. Bassanio wins the fair Portia, but Antonio experiences a series of setbacks that leave him in debt to the Jewish moneylender Shylock. According to their contract, Shylock is entitled to a pound of Antonio’s flesh, which he plans to cut from Antonio’s heart. The case goes to the court of Venice. Portia, disguised as a young doctor of law, argues against Shylock’s vicious claim, appealing first to mercy (in this speech) and then to the exactest justice.