Summary and Analysis Sonnet 134


The story of the poet’s friend’s seduction unfolds in Sonnet 134. Hoping to gain the woman’s favor, the poet sends the young man to the woman with a message. However, she seizes the opportunity to make the youth her lover, and the youth responds to her advances wholeheartedly, as lines 7 and 8 suggest: “He learned but surety-like to write for me / Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.” When the poet learns of the youth’s entanglement, he blames himself, for the woman used him to entice the young man; now both he and the youth are involved with the mistress. For the poet, innocence and naivete explain the youth’s behavior, but he fears that he has lost both the youth and his mistress.

Constructed around the image of usury ( lending money at a high rate of interest), Sonnet 134 has a number of bawdy expressions. For example, line 2 introduces a pun on the word “will,” which, in Elizabethan times, meant lust, desire, and either the male or the female sex organs. The sonnet is saturated with terms common to usury: The poet is “mortgaged” (used as security) by the woman (the “usurer”) to gain the affections of the youth (the “debtor”).