Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one:
So shall those blots that do with me remain,
Without thy help, by me be borne alone.
In our two loves there is but one respect,
Though in our lives a separable spite,
Which though it alter not love’s sole effect,
Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love’s delight.
I may not evermore acknowledge thee,
Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,
Nor thou with public kindness honour me,
Unless thou take that honour from thy name:
But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.
Sonnet 36 in modern English
Let me admit that we two have to part even though we are united in love. By parting those disgraces that we’ve brought on ourselves can be born by me alone, without any help from you. In our love for each other there is a single mind, even though circumstances, which force us apart, can’t destroy our love, but rob us of those sweet hours of mutual pleasure. I can’t ever openly acknowledge you again because my wretched guilt would bring shame on you. Nor can you honour me with public notice without dishonouring yourself. So don’t do that: my love for you is such that I value your reputation as though it were my own.
Watch Sir Patrick Stewart read Shakespeare’s sonnet 36
The 1609 Quarto sonnet 36 version
LEt me confeſſe that we two muſt be twaine,
Although our vndeuided loues are one:
So ſhall thoſe blots that do with me remaine,
Without thy helpe, by me be borne alone.
In our two loues there is but one reſpect,
Though in our liues a ſeperable ſpight,
Which though it alter not loues ſole effect,
Yet doth it ſteal ſweete houres from loues delight,
I may not euer-more acknowledge thee,
Leaſt my bewailed guilt ſhould do thee ſhame,
Nor thou with publike kindneſſe honour me,
Vnleſſe thou take that honour from thy name:
But doe not ſo,I loue thee in ſuch ſort,
As thou being mine,mine is thy good report.
See the British Library’s 1609 Quarto.
No Love Can Be Separated by Spite
Can love survive endless separation? Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 36” describes in brief the brutality of separation and the pain of shame and guilt. This poem focuses on two people who want to be together but cannot because of the poet’s reputation, which will somehow end their companionship. The poet’s guilt and shame over his reputation has caused this separation, but yet he continues to acknowledge his endless love for his beloved. The poet stresses how the two must be separated but yet he continues to recognize their love for one another by using metaphor and word choice of togetherness and apartness.
Shakespeare uses the word “twain” in the first line of the sonnet to express a sense of apartness. In The Oxford English Dictionary Online the word twain is described as “separated, or apart”. The poet is using the word twain to express a sense of separation between the two. Although he is using the word twain in the first line to express separation, he continues by saying “Although our undivided loves are one” (2). Now in a sense of togetherness, Shakespeare is expressing their “undivided loves”. This use of metaphors suggests that they are married. Although we do not know at this point if his spouse is a male or female, we come to the conclusion that the poet is married. Shakespeare’s use of togetherness and apartness in the first two lines demonstrates that he wants to be with this person, but yet can’t for some undefined reason
The sonnet explains how two loves want to be together but simply cannot be in the public.