Summary and Analysis Sonnet 40



Sonnet 40 begins a three-sonnet sequence in which the poet shares his possessions and his mistress with the youth, although it is not until Sonnet 41 that he directly mentions their liaison.

The use of the word "love" may be confusing to readers, for "love" in this sonnet means at least three different things. Two of these meanings are addressed in the first line, "Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all." Here, "my loves" refers to the poet's possessions, both physical — the sonnets themselves — and emotional. Following this, the phrase "my love," set off by commas, refers to the young man himself, whom the poet is addressing. Although the allusion to the youth's now possessing the poet's mistress is slight in this sonnet, line 6 — "I cannot blame thee for my love thou usest" — contains the strongest hint of this new relationship: The young man "usest" the poet's mistress — "my love."

In an almost pathetically timid voice, the poet wavers between anger at and forgiveness of the young man. Line 7 begins, "But yet be blamed," and we expect the poet to rant in extreme hostility at the youth, but this mood then shifts to the forgiveness contained in lines 9 and 10: "I do forgive thy robb'ry, gentle thief, / Although thou steal thee all my poverty." In lines 11 and 12, the mood shifts again, but now the poet waxes philosophically about the contrasts between love and hate: ". . . it is a greater grief / To bear love's wrong than hate's known injury." And finally, even while angry over the affair, the poet forgives the youth's lecherous nature: "Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows, / Kill me with spites; yet we must not be foes."