'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
Sonnet 121 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It's a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards his young lover.
The poet condemns hypocrisy and decides he's going to be himself.
Hypocrites force you to lose out on life's fair pleasures.
They are bad by pointing out your faults. What they see as a fault may actually be a good thing.
You have to hide your pleasurable pursuits from them.
Unless they realize that all people are bad (and presumably they will stop being hyprocrites)
A line by line interpretation into simplified, modern English:
1 You are better off being a bad person than to be known as a bad person
2 when you are actually a good person but are accused of being bad
3 and you lose the pleasure [of your activity] because it's been decided as a bad thing
4 not because you feel it is wrong but because others see it [and they have decided it is a bad thing].
5 Why should other people's fake, adulterous eyes
6 give notice to my pleasurable pursuits?
7 Why are morally weak people spying on my weaknesses
8 and counting up a tally of what is bad when I see it as good?
9 No [I reject these people]. I am what I am. Those who point to
10 my faults remember their own faults.
11 I may be good and true while they are the ones who are bent.
12 Because of their bad thoughts, I will need to be secretive
13 unless they are to agree to this statement about human evilness
14 All men are bad and they rule the world with their badness
Notes and references
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