Context: This sonnet appeared for the first time with 15 other sonnets in Shakespeare’s “The Passionate Pilgrim” (1599). The narrator in this poem describes his two loves – a “fair youth”, or young man and the “Dark Lady”. Several voices are heard in this poem. One of his loves comforts the narrator, but the other one makes him despair. The narrator also brag about his own abilities on love, but take notice how Christian moral interfere in his descriptions of how one good angel and an evil angel battles the narrator’s soul. About 126 poems have a religious theme. Shakespeare wrote several sonnets which mention the Dark Lady, but we don’t know if she was a real person or just a “muse”. Autobiographical readings and interpretations has been done on this sonnet.
The English sonnet has three quatrains, followed by a final rhyming couplet.
Themes: Love, sexuality, possession, Dark Lady, Duality, soul, morality
Q1: Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill.
Q2: To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
Q3: And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell:
C: Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.