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Sonnet 129- William Shakespeare- Summary

Updated: Apr 22, 2022


Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,

Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,

Past reason hunted; and, no sooner had

Past reason hated as a swallowed bait

On purpose laid to make the taker mad;

Mad in pursuit and in possession so,

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;

A bliss in proof and proved, a very woe;

Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.


The speaker says that the time and energy incurred in the activity of lust is a wasteful and shameful act. Until the action, lust is unfaithful, murderous, bloody and full of blame, savage, violent, crude, cruel, and untrustworthy. Lust is sooner enjoyed but also is sooner hated straight after. It is pursued unreasonably and as soon as it is achieved, it is also hated unreasonably as the bait swallowed by a fish. This is done intentionally to make the ones involved in it insane. The taker is insane in pursuing one’s lust and mad in possessing the object of lust. They get violent in having, having had, and seeking to have more. They feel Blissful when being had, but in the end, instantaneously feel miserable to have tasted. Before consummation, it is a joy promised; after it seems like a mere dream. Everyone certainly knows everything about lust but no man knows to not fall for the heaven (lust) that leads to hell.

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