Summary and Analysis Sonnet 141


In Sonnet 141, the poet discusses how his senses warn him of the woman’s disreputable character, yet his heart, a symbol of his emotions, remains affectionately attached to her. He begins the sonnet by denying that the woman has any attractive features. His eyes note “a thousand errors” both in her appearance and her personality, but diametrically opposed to his eyes is his heart, which “despite of view is pleased to dote.” All of his senses come into play in the second quatrain, in which he categorizes his repugnance for the woman. Stylistically, the first three lines in this second stanza begin identically with the word “Nor,” followed by each of his senses: hearing (“Nor are mine ears “); touch (“Nor tender feeling”); and taste and smell (“Nor taste, nor smell”). The crux of his argument comes in the third quatrain and best sums up the dichotomy between his senses and his heart: “But my five wits nor my five senses can / Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee.” Neither mind nor his body can prevent him from loving her, but he is consoled by the pain she inflicts on him. Masochistically, he regards her cruel behavior as punishment for his sinful behavior: “That she makes me sin awards me pain.” The word “sin” here means his outrageous rejection of common sense in loving her.