Sonnet 138

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 untutored youth,
Unlearn`ed 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 suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?


  1. "Wherefore" means "why" (and not the "where" of pop culture quotations from Romeo and Juliet  -- "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?"). Why doesn't she confess her wrongdoing, and why don't I admit I'm old?

  2. These are questions not asked out of curiosity but posed rhetorically -- so that the speaker himself can answer them. We get the impression of a public speaker, a sort of performance. One would scarcely ask these questions of oneself. They are aimed at producing an effect on listeners.

  3. The whole poem now, in retrospect, seems more of a performance than one had earlier felt. It's a sort of self-deprecating comic turn, but by a moralist.

  4. Hasn't he already told us why he lies? Not really. He's told us why he pretends to believe her  lies.

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