Sonnet 138: When my love swears that she is made of truth

Following Sonnet 130, we turn to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138, which portrays the benefits of a romantic relationship with another in a sour light.

As you read through this sonnet, consider whether you agree with Shakespeare’s portrayal of the role of truth or the lack thereof in relationships. What do you think Shakespeare means when he writes “love’s best habit is in seeming trust”? Do you agree with that statement? Finally, how do you think it relates to the concluding line? Do you think flattering is a necessary feature of relationships, even if it is only a “seeming” truth?

When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress’d.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.

Discussion

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