Sonnet 91

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Sonnet 91
Detail of old-spelling text
The first two stanzas of Sonnet 91 in the 1609 Quarto
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Q1



Q2



Q3



C

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force;
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill;
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest:
But these particulars are not my measure;
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost,
Of more delight than hawks or horses be;
And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast:
Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away and me most wretched make.




4



8



12

14

—William Shakespeare[1]

Sonnet 91 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 a young man.

Paraphrase[edit]

Some people delight in their noble ancestry; some in their abilities; some in their wealth or strength; some in their hunting animals. But I don't take joy in any of these things because I have something even better: To me your love is better than noble ancestry, wealth, expensive clothes or hunting animals. And as long as I have you, I feel prouder than anyone else. But I am also cursed in only a single thing: that if you stop loving me, I will become the most wretched person.

Structure[edit]

Sonnet 91 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 11th line exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter:

×   /    × /      ×   /    ×    /  ×   / 
Of more delight than hawks and horses be; (91.11)
/ = ictus, a metrically strong syllabic position. × = nonictus.

The sonnet abounds with metrical variants. Lines 5 and 7 have a final extrametrical syllable or feminine ending. Line 2 exhibits both an initial and a mid-line reversal, two of at least nine such reversals in the poem.

 /   ×    ×    /       /   ×    ×    / ×     / 
Some in their wealth, some in their bodies' force, (91.2)

Both lines 8 and 9 may be scanned to exhibit the rightward movement of the third ictus (resulting in a four-position figure, × × / /, sometimes referred to as a minor ionic):

×     /   ×  /  ×  ×  /    /   ×   / 
All these I better in one general best.

  ×  /   ×   /  ×    ×   /    /     ×  / 
Thy love is better than high birth to me, (91.8-9)

Interpretations[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Pooler, C[harles] Knox, ed. (1918). The Works of Shakespeare: Sonnets. The Arden Shakespeare [1st series]. London: Methuen & Company. OCLC 4770201. 

References[edit]

First edition and facsimile
Variorum editions
Modern critical editions