Play Sonnet 87

Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know’st thy estimate,
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thy self thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me to whom thou gav’st it else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgement making.
     Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,
     In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.



Sonnet 87 sees the poet giving up on love at the hands of a rival.

Shakespeare bids his beloved farewell, saying that they are probably too good for him anyway… and they know it. They’re right to go, and he has no means of making them stay but those they choose to give him. How does he deserve such a treasure? He doesn’t, his right to possess is revoked and power goes back to his beloved. He wonders if when first they were together, perhaps his beloved did not know their own worth, or gave in to him by accident, mistaking him for someone more worthy. So the great gift, based on a false estimate, goes back to his beloved now that they are able to make a better judgment. The time they shared was, to Shakespeare, like a flattering dream: while he was “asleep”, he was a king, but upon waking, found that was not the case.


Will’s Wordplay

This sonnet reads as if it were the culmination of the rival poets’ sequence which has ended in the final rejection of the poet by the youth in favor of the rival. It links closely to Sonnet 90 which has the same theme of dealing with rejection. The opening word ‘Farewell!’ is almost a sufficient summary of the whole poem.


Scholar’s Corner

Critics commonly agree that Shakespeare uses legal imagery as a metaphor for the relationship between the speaker and the Fair Youth to whom this poem’s sequence belongs. Helen Vendler and Stephen Booth are of the same opinion that the legal terms of the sonnet frame the relationship between the speaker and the young man as a contract now void because of the beloved’s realization of his greater worth. The relationship is expressed in the language of legal financial transaction: estimate, charter, bonds, determinate, riches, and patent, into the sonnet—also dear and worth in the financial sense. [1]

Michael Andrews acknowledges the metaphorical use of legal and financial imagery like Vendler and Booth. However he proposes further that the legal and financial imagery, along with a “cooly ironic” tone, disguises the speaker’s true feelings which only fully appear in the couplet. [2] In this interpretation the legal and financial imagery of the three quatrains are more self-protective than sincere.



1. Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge and London: Belknap-Harvard University Press, 1997. 383. OCLC # 36806589
2. Andrews, Michael Cameron. “Sincerity and Subterfuge in Three Shakespearean Sonnet Groups.” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 3. Folger Shakespeare Library (1982): 321. Web. 10 October 2009.


Irish Hunger Memorial, Manhattan

“The Memorial represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields and the flora on the north Connacht wetlands. It is both a metaphor for the Great Irish Famine and a reminder that hunger today is often the result of lack of access to land.

The 96’ x 170’ Memorial, designed by artist Brian Tolle, contains stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties, and is elevated on a limestone plinth. Along the base are bands of texts separated by layers of imported Kilkenny limestone. The text, which combines the history of the Great Famine with contemporary reports on world hunger, is cast as shadow onto illuminated frosted glass panels.

Open from approximately 8am to 9pm between May 1st and October 31st, and from 8am to 6:45PM from November through April.” [1]





ACTOR – Timothy Carter

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DIRECTOR – Bram Lewis

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