Summary and Analysis Sonnet 88



The poet speaks of his relationship with the young man as though it has been repaired after the rival poet's departure, but his is a vision of how things might be rather than how they are. He proposes to prove that the youth is virtuous — although the youth had been disloyal — by insisting upon his own worthlessness and making their break appear the inevitable consequence of the poet's faults: "Upon thy side against myself I'll fight / And prove thee virtuous, though thou art forsworn."

Defending against an injustice about to befall him, the poet allows that if the young man wants to humiliate him, then the poet will publicly and masochistically approve the disgrace: "Upon thy part I can set down a story / Of faults concealed wherein I am attainted, / That thou, in losing me, shall win much glory." At least there is none of the exaggerated modesty of previous sonnets. Although the poet remains at the youth's mercy emotionally, he deprives the youth of a clean rejection by agreeing to be dishonored. Ironically, in doing so, he achieves a unanimity of spirit — the very thing he wanted all along: "The injuries that to myself I do, / Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me." He characteristically falls into a state of emotional self-flagellation: "Such is my love, to thee I so belong, / That for thy right myself will bear all wrong."

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