Sonnet 111 focuses particularly on the poet’s laments about his misfortunes. He resents that circumstances have forced him to behave as he has because fortune provided so meanly for his birth and “did not better for my life provide / Than public means which public manners breeds.” Other than an allusion to work, the poet’s remarks are general and do not explicitly identify his profession. In any case, he differs from the young man in that he possesses no independent, private means of livelihood. The phrase “public means,” therefore, may mean that he must seek patronage through “public manner” — for example, the pursuit of favor through flattering verse. It does not, as some critics argue, necessarily mean that the poet is an actor associated with stagecraft.
The remark “Thence comes it that my name receives a brand” expresses the poet’s determination to make amends for the insincerity of his flattering eulogies and for his having briefly abandoned the young man. He apologizes for his materialist motives and twice asks the young man to “Pity me.”