Summary and Analysis Sonnet 120


The poet and the youth now are able to appreciate traded injuries, with the poet neglecting the youth for his mistress and the youth committing a vague "trespass." But their positions are only reversed in a rhetorical sense, for the poet still argues that they remain friends: "But that your trespass now becomes a fee; / Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me." Sonnet 120 embodies yet another variation on the poet's transference of roles from sufferer — "And for that sorrow which I then did feel" — to inconstant wrongdoer — ". . . you were by my unkindness shaken" — to tyrant — "And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken." The poetic story suddenly becomes complex and tortured by another's presence, although this presence remains in the background.

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