Sonnet 117

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Sonnet 117

Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all,
Wherein I should your great deserts repay,
Forgot upon your dearest love to call,
Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day;
That I have frequent been with unknown minds,
And given to time your own dear-purchas'd right;
That I have hoisted sail to all the winds
Which should transport me farthest from your sight.
Book both my wilfulness and errors down,
And on just proof surmise, accumulate;
Bring me within the level of your frown,
But shoot not at me in your waken'd hate;
Since my appeal says I did strive to prove
The constancy and virtue of your love.

–William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's sonnet 117 was first published in 1609. It uses similar imagery to Sonnet 116 and expands on the challenge in the closing couplet ("If this be error and upon me proved, | I never writ, nor no man ever loved"). Using legally resonant metaphors ("accuse", "bonds", "proof", "appeal", "prove"), the poet defends himself against accusations of ingratitude and infidelity by saying that he was merely testing (or proving) the constancy of those same things in his friend.


  • Duncan-Jones, Katherine (ed). Shakespeare's Sonnets. 1997: Arden Shakespeare, London ISBN 978-1-903436-57-8
  • Evans, Blackmore (ed). The Sonnets, 2006: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ISBN 0-521-67837-4

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