Sonnet 74

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Sonnet 74
Detail of old-spelling text
The first eleven lines of Sonnet 74 in the 1609 Quarto
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But be contented: when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.





—William Shakespeare[1]

Sonnet 74 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man.


The sonnet states that the poet's death should not concern the Youth, since the body is unimportant, while the spirit remains expressed in the sonnet itself, as a memorial of the immortality of the human soul.


Sonnet 74 is an English or Shakespearean sonnet. The English sonnet has three quatrains, followed by a final rhyming couplet. It follows the typical rhyme scheme of the form, abab cdcd efef gg and is composed in iambic pentameter, a type of poetic metre based on five pairs of metrically weak/strong syllabic positions. The tenth line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:

  ×   /  ×   /      ×  / ×  /×    / 
The prey of worms, my body being dead; (74.10)
/ = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.

The meter demands a few variant pronunciations: line 4's "memorial" counts as 3 syllables,[2] line 8's "spirit" counts as 1 (possibly pronounced as spear't, sprite, sprit, or spurt),[3] and line 12's "rememberèd" is expanded to 4.[4]


  1. ^ Pooler, C[harles] Knox, ed. (1918). The Works of Shakespeare: Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare [1st series]. London: Methuen & Company. OCLC 4770201. 
  2. ^ Kerrigan 1995, p. 267.
  3. ^ Booth 2000, p. 262.
  4. ^ Kerrigan 1995, p. 113.


First edition and facsimile
Variorum editions
Modern critical editions