Shakespeare's Sonnets By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Sonnet 117

Summary

The poet abruptly returns to the subject of the young man and renews his apology and appeal. Whereas Sonnet 116 indicates that the relationship has stabilized, this sonnet stresses the poet's self-rebuke using legal terminology: "Accuse me thus, that I have scanted all / Wherein I should your great deserts repay"; ". . . all bonds do tie me day by day"; and "Book both my wilfulness and errors down."

Sonnet 117 echoes Sonnet 110, in which the speaker also lists his faults. Here, although the octet — the first eight lines — clearly renders the nature of the poet's wrongs, actual events are not identified. The poet confesses to squandering the youth's constant affection on others: "I have frequent been with unknown minds." The figurative expression "hoisted sail to all the winds" may refer to emotional distance or, as some think, to excessive drink rather than actual travel. The ending couplet again makes clear, as in the previous sonnet, that the emotional gulf between the youth and the poet is due to the youth's inconstancy and betrayal, not the poet's.

Glossary

scanted be short of.

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