“Sonnet 42: That thou hast her, it is not all my grief” by William Shakespeare

That thou hast her, it is not all my grief,
And yet it may be said I lov’d her dearly;
That she hath thee, is of my wailing chief,
A loss in love that touches me more nearly.
Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye:
Thou dost love her, because thou know’st I love her;
And for my sake even so doth she abuse me,
Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her.
If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain,
And losing her, my friend hath found that loss;
Both find each other, and I lose both twain.
And both for my sake lay on me this cross:
But here’s the joy: my friend and I are one:
Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.

In this sonnet, Shakespeare is addressing a love triangle. Essentially, the fair youth, who is described as the speaker’s “friend,” has become romantically involved with the speaker’s mistress. What is most interesting is that the speaker seems less sad about losing his mistress than he is about losing the love of the fair youth. There are a couple ways to interpret this. On one hand, the argument can be made that the speaker has a romantic relationship with his friend, and that this relationship means more to him than his heterosexual relations. But another way to look at it is that Shakespeare is trying to convey the importance of friendship and camaraderie. While sexual relations may come and go, the deep bond of friendship is something rare.

In the final couplet, the speaker states “my friend and I are one.” Regardless of whether you interpret the friendship as a romantic or a platonic relationship, what is evident is the deep connection the speaker feels for his friend. Being as one, his friend’s happiness is essentially his own.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my musings. Have an inspired day.

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2 responses to ““Sonnet 42: That thou hast her, it is not all my grief” by William Shakespeare

  1. Amy Barrett

    Hi Jeff, not sure how is best to contact you but wondered if we could have a chat via email? I’m working on a book about rest and, having found your reviews tagged ‘ennui’, would be really keen to hear your advice for finding representations of malaise and rest? Thanks for this great resource, anyway 🙂

    • Hi Amy. Thanks for reaching out to me, and your book idea sounds intriguing. While I am humbled and grateful that you seek my advice in this area, I’m not sure I have much to offer. I read Baudelaire in college, and pretty much that is the extent of my insight into the topic of ennui. That said, my only suggestion is to read Baudelaire’s “Flowers of Evil.” I wish I could offer you more assistance. May the muses guide you in your writing project 🙂

      Jeff