Shakespeare's Sonnets: A woman's face with nature's own hand painted

Sonnet 20

Original Text: 

SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (London: G. Eld for T. T. and sold by William Aspley, 1609): c1r.

2Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion,
4With shifting change as is false women's fashion,
5An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
6Gilding the object where-upon it gazeth,
7A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
8Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
9And for a woman wert thou first created,
10Till nature as she wrought thee fell a doting,
14    Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.


1] Every line in the poem is extrametrical, one syllable longer than Shakespeare's usual pentameter, "adding one thing to my purpose nothing" (11). Back to Line
3] acquainted] perhaps punning on the female "quaint" (or genitalia). Back to Line
11] By adding [one thing] defeated me of thee ... Back to Line
12] The terms "one thing" and "nothing" refer playfully to the male and female sexual organs, respectively. Back to Line
13] prick't] gave you a penis. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: