.
..
A Lover's Complaint
A Study Guide
Cummings Guides Home..|..Shakespeare Videos..|..Shakespeare Books
.
Type of Work
Setting
Year of Publication
Characters
Verse Format
Authorship Question
Summary of the Poem
Complete Poem With Notes
Themes
Figures of Speech
Biography of Shakespeare
Shakespeare Index Page
.
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
Revised in 2010..©

Type of Work

.......As the title suggests, this Shakespeare work is a complaint poem. This type of poem was popular in medieval and Renaissance times. Authors of complaint poems narrated stories of unrequited love, personal difficulties, injustice, poverty, or another social problem. Sometimes they spiced their poems with satire. A complaint poem often appeared at the end of a collection of other poems.

Year of Publication

.......The poem was published in 1609, at the end of a quarto edition featuring Shakespeare's sonnets

Setting

.......The events described in the poem take place in rural England.

Characters

The narrator: Unidentified person. He observes a woman complaining about a man who seduced her, then left her.
The woman: Person who yields to the charms of the seducer.
Old Man: Person who listens to the woman's story. 
The Seducer: Handsome young man with a clever tongue who treats women as objects for satisfying his lust.

Verse Format

.......The poem is in rhyme royal (or rime royal), a format in which each stanza has seven lines and the metric pattern is iambic pentameter. In rhyme royal, the rhyme scheme is ababbcc. 
.......Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, pioneered this rhyme scheme in England in his works Troilus and Criseyde and The Parlement of Foules. Rhyme royal was going out of fashion when A Lover~ez_rsquo~s Complaint was published, although later poets~ez_ndash~including John Milton in the seventeenth century and John Masefield in the twentieth~ez_ndash~revived it. 
.......The first stanza of the poem demonstrates the rhyme scheme:

.From off a hill whose concave womb re-worded
A plaintful story from a sistering vale
My spirits to attend this double voice accorded
And down I laid to list the sad-tun~ez_rsquo~d tale
Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale
Tearing of papers, breaking rings a-twain
Storming her world with sorrow~ez_rsquo~s wind and rain.
Lines 4 and 5 demonstrate the prevailing metric pattern:
.........1...............2..............3..............4................5
And DOWN..|..I LAID..|..to LIST..|..the SAD-..|..tun'd TALE

........1...............2...............3..............4..............5
Ere LONG..|..es PIED..|..a FICK..|..le MAID..|..full PALE

Authorship Question

.......Because parts of the poem appear ~ez_ldquo~un-Shakespearean~ez_rdquo~ in style, some researchers hold open the possibility that another author wrote the poem. However, it was not unusual for Shakespeare to alter his style. Moreover, although un-Shakespearean passages do exist in the poem~ez_ndash~passages which Algernon Charles Swinburne ridiculed as bombastic~ez_ndash~a goodly passel of typically Shakespearean passages grace the poem. Swinburne acknowledged these passages as exquisite. And here~ez_rsquo~s something more: The first stanza of A Lover~ez_rsquo~s Complaint resembles the first stanza of The Rape of Lucrece in structure and word choice. Other similarities exist in other stanzas. Below is a comparison of the first four lines of A Lover's Complaint and the first four lines of The Rape of Lucrece. Note the similarities:

A Lover's Complaint
.
From off a hill whose concave womb reworded
A plaintful story from a sistering vale,
My spirits to attend this double voice accorded,
And down I laid to list the sad-tuned tale;
.
The Rape of Lucrece
.
From the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathed Tarquin leaves the Roman host,
And to Collatium bears the lightless fire
Summary of the Poem
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
..
.......When woeful cries echo from a hill, the poem~ez_rsquo~s narrator cocks an ear to listen. By and by, he spies in the distance the source of the lamentations: a maid wearing a straw hat against the bright sunlight. Pale and careworn, she is crying into a handkerchief. Although past her youth, she retains a glimmer of youthful beauty. Her distress attracts a ~ez_ldquo~reverend man~ez_rdquo~ grazing cattle nearby. Leaning on a sturdy ashen staff, he seats himself a modest distance from her and asks what troubles her. It may be that, as a man of many years and much experience, he may have the wisdom to alleviate her grief. 
"Father,' she says, "though in me you behold
The injury of many a blasting hour,
Let it not tell your judgment I am old;
Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power:
I might as yet have been a spreading flower,
Fresh to myself, If I had self-applied
Love to myself and to no love beside."
.......She then tells her listener how a young man whose ~ez_ldquo~qualities were beauteous as his form~ez_rdquo~ wooed her, first winning her ~ez_ldquo~affections in his charmed power,~ez_rdquo~ then stealing ~ez_ldquo~all my flower.~ez_rdquo~ In other words, the young man had seduced her. His methods, she says, were ~ez_ldquo~foul beguiling~ez_rdquo~ and deceits ~ez_ldquo~gilded in his smiling.~ez_rdquo~ Afterward, he abandoned her. The poem ends when the maid bitterly denounces the wrongdoer while acknowledging, paradoxically, that she would yet again succumb to his wiles if the opportunity presented itself:
"O, that infected moisture of his eye,
O, that false fire which in his cheek so glow'd,
O, that forced thunder from his heart did fly,
O, that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow'd,
O, all that borrow'd motion seeming owed,
Would yet again betray the fore-betray'd,
And new pervert a reconciled maid!"
The old man offers no response. 


A Lover's Complaint
By William Shakespeare

Text and Explanatory Notes

1
From off a hill whose concave womb re-worded
A plaintful story1 from a sistering vale2
My spirits to attend this double voice3 accorded, 
And down I laid to list4 the sad-tun~ez_rsquo~d tale; 
Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale,...............................5
Tearing of papers5, breaking rings a-twain, 
Storming her world with sorrow~ez_rsquo~s wind and rain. 


Upon her head a platted6 hive of straw,7
Which fortified her visage from the sun, 
Whereon the thought might think sometime it saw.............10
The carcass of a beauty spent and done: 
Time had not scythed8 all that youth begun, 
Nor youth all quit; but, spite of heaven~ez_rsquo~s fell9 rage, 
Some beauty peep~ez_rsquo~d through lattice10 of sear~ez_rsquo~d11 age.


Oft did she heave her napkin to her eyne,12.......................15
Which on it had conceited characters, 
Laundering the silken figures in the brine 
That season~ez_rsquo~d woe13 had pelleted in tears, 
And often reading what content it bears; 
As often shrieking undistinguish~ez_rsquo~d woe14............................20
In clamours of all size, both high and low. 

4
Sometimes her levell~ez_rsquo~d eyes their carriage ride
As they did battery to the spheres intend;15
Sometime diverted, their poor balls are tied 
To the orbed earth; sometimes they do extend....................25
Their view right on; anon their gazes lend 
To every place at once, and nowhere fix~ez_rsquo~d, 
The mind and sight distractedly commix~ez_rsquo~d. 


Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat,16
Proclaim~ez_rsquo~d in her a careless hand of pride;...........................30
For some, untuck~ez_rsquo~d, descended her sheav~ez_rsquo~d hat, 
Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside; 
Some in her threaden fillet17 still did bide, 
And true to bondage would not break from thence 
Though slackly braided in loose negligence..........................35


A thousand favours from a maund18 she drew 
Of amber, crystal, and of beaded jet, 
Which one by one she in a river threw, 
Upon whose weeping margent19 she was set; 
Like usury, applying wet to wet,20........................................40
Or monarch~ez_rsquo~s hands that let not bounty fall 
Where want cries some, but where excess begs all. 

7
Of folded schedules21 had she many a one,
Which she perus~ez_rsquo~d, sigh~ez_rsquo~d, tore, and gave the flood; 
Crack~ez_rsquo~d many a ring of posied gold and bone,........................45
Bidding them find their sepulchres in mud; 
Found yet more letters sadly penn~ez_rsquo~d in blood, 
With sleided silk feat22 and affectedly
Enswath~ez_rsquo~d, and seal~ez_rsquo~d to curious secrecy. 

8
These often bath~ez_rsquo~d she in her fluxive23 eyes,..........................50
And often kiss~ez_rsquo~d, and often ~ez_rsquo~gan to tear; 
Cried "O false blood! thou register of lies, 
What unapproved24 witness dost thou bear; 
Ink would have seem~ez_rsquo~d more black and damned here."25
This said, in top of rage the lines she rents,26........................55
Big discontent so breaking their contents. 

9
A reverend man that graz~ez_rsquo~d his cattle nigh~ez_mdash~ 
Sometime27 a blusterer, that the ruffle28knew
Of court, of city, and had let go by 
The swiftest hours, observed as they flew~ez_mdash~...........................60
Towards this afflicted fancy29 fastly30 drew; 
And, privileg~ez_rsquo~d by age,31 desires to know 
In brief the grounds and motives of her woe. 

10
So slides he down upon his grained bat,32
And comely-distant33 sits he by her side;...............................65
When he again desires her, being sat, 
Her grievance with his hearing to divide: 
If that from him there may be aught34 applied 
Which may her suffering ecstasy assuage,35
~ez_rsquo~Tis promis~ez_rsquo~d in the charity of age...........................................70

11
~ez_lsquo~Father,~ez_rsquo~ she says, ~ez_lsquo~though in me you behold 
The injury of many a blasting hour,36
Let it not tell your judgment I am old; 
Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power: 
I might as yet have been a spreading flower,............................75
Fresh to myself, if I had self-applied 
Love to myself and to no love beside.

12
~ez_lsquo~But, woe is me! too early I attended 
A youthful suit,37 it was to gain my grace, 
Of one by nature~ez_rsquo~s outwards so commended,...........................80
That maidens~ez_rsquo~ eyes stuck over all his face.38
Love lack~ez_rsquo~d a dwelling, and made him her place; 
And when in his fair parts she did abide, 
She was new lodg~ez_rsquo~d and newly deified. 

13
~ez_lsquo~His browny locks did hang in crooked curls,   85
And every light occasion of the wind 
Upon his lips their silken parcels hurls. 
What~ez_rsquo~s sweet to do, to do will aptly find:39
Each eye that saw him did enchant the mind, 
For on his visage was in little drawn.........................................90
What largeness thinks in Paradise was sawn.40

14
~ez_lsquo~Small show of man was yet upon his chin; 
His phoenix41 down began but to appear
Like unshorn velvet on that termless42 skin 
Whose bare out-bragg~ez_rsquo~d the web it seem~ez_rsquo~d to wear;43................95
Yet show~ez_rsquo~d his visage by that cost44 more dear,45
And nice affections wavering stood in doubt 
If best were as it was, or best without. 

15
~ez_lsquo~His qualities were beauteous as his form, 
For maiden-tongu~ez_rsquo~d46 he was, and thereof free;........................100
Yet, if men mov~ez_rsquo~d47 him, was he such a storm
As oft ~ez_rsquo~twixt May and April is to see, 
When winds breathe sweet, untidy though they be. 
His rudeness so with his authoriz~ez_rsquo~d youth 
Did livery falseness in a pride of truth.48...................................105

16
~ez_lsquo~Well could he ride, and often men would say 
~ez_ldquo~That horse his mettle from his rider takes: 
Proud of subjection, noble by the sway, 
What rounds, what bounds, what course, what stop he makes!~ez_rdquo~ 
And controversy hence a question takes,.................................110
Whether the horse by him became his deed, 
Or he his manage by the well-doing steed. 

17
~ez_lsquo~But quickly on this side the verdict went: 
His real habitude49 gave life and grace 
To appertainings and to ornament,50.........................................115
Accomplish~ez_rsquo~d in himself, not in his case: 
All aids, themselves made fairer by their place, 
Came for additions; yet their purpos~ez_rsquo~d trim 
Piec~ez_rsquo~d not his grace, but were all grac~ez_rsquo~d by him. 

18
~ez_lsquo~So on the tip of his subduing tongue.........................................120
All kinds of arguments and question deep, 
All replication51 prompt, and reason strong, 
For his advantage still did wake and sleep: 
To make the weeper laugh, the laugher weep, 
He had the dialect and different skill,..........................................125
Catching all passions in his craft of will:52

19
~ez_lsquo~That he did in the general bosom reign 
Of young, of old; and sexes both enchanted,
To dwell with him in thoughts, or to remain 
In personal duty, following where he haunted:..............................130
Consents bewitch~ez_rsquo~d,53 ere he desire, have granted; 
And dialogu~ez_rsquo~d for him what he would say, 
Ask~ez_rsquo~d their own wills, and made their wills obey. 

20
~ez_lsquo~Many there were that did his picture get, 
To serve their eyes, and in it put their mind;.................................135
Like fools that in the imagination set 
The goodly objects which abroad they find 
Of lands and mansions, theirs in thought assign~ez_rsquo~d;54
And labouring in more pleasures to bestow them 
Than the true gouty landlord which doth owe55 them.....................140

21
~ez_lsquo~So many have, that never touch~ez_rsquo~d his hand, 
Sweetly suppos~ez_rsquo~d them mistress of his heart. 
My woeful self, that did in freedom stand, 
And was my own fee-simple,56 not in part, 
What with his art in youth, and youth in art,..................................145
Threw my affections in his charmed power, 
Reserv~ez_rsquo~d the stalk and gave him all my flower. 

22
~ez_lsquo~Yet did I not, as some my equals did, 
Demand of him, nor being desired yielded; 
Finding myself in honour so forbid,57.............................................150
With safest distance I mine honour shielded. 
Experience for me many bulwarks builded 
Of proofs new-bleeding,58 which remain~ez_rsquo~d the foil59
Of this false jewel, and his amorous spoil. 

23
~ez_lsquo~But, ah! who ever shunn~ez_rsquo~d by precedent........................................155
The destin~ez_rsquo~d ill she must herself assay?60
Or forc~ez_rsquo~d examples, ~ez_rsquo~gainst her own content, 
To put the by-pass~ez_rsquo~d perils in her way? 
Counsel may stop awhile what will not stay; 
For when we rage, advice is often seen..........................................160
By blunting us to make our wits more keen. 

24
~ez_lsquo~Nor gives it satisfaction to our blood, 
That we must curb it upon others~ez_rsquo~ proof;61
To be forbid the sweets that seem so good, 
For fear of harms that preach in our behoof.....................................165
O appetite! from judgment stand aloof; 
The one a palate hath that needs will taste, 
Though Reason weep, and cry ~ez_ldquo~It is thy last.~ez_rdquo~ 

25
~ez_lsquo~For further I could say ~ez_ldquo~This man ~ez_rsquo~s untrue,~ez_rdquo~ 
And knew the patterns of his foul beguiling;.....................................170
Heard where his plants in others~ez_rsquo~ orchards grew, 
Saw how deceits were gilded in his smiling; 
Knew vows were ever brokers to defiling; 
Thought characters and words merely but art, 
And bastards of his foul adulterate heart..........................................175

26
~ez_lsquo~And long upon these terms I held my city, 
Till thus he ~ez_rsquo~gan besiege me: ~ez_ldquo~Gentle maid, 
Have of my suffering youth some feeling pity, 
And be not of my holy vows afraid:62
That~ez_rsquo~s to ye sworn to none was ever said;........................................180
For feasts of love I have been call~ez_rsquo~d unto, 
Till now did ne~ez_rsquo~er invite, nor never woo. 

27
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~All my offences that abroad you see 
Are errors of the blood, none of the mind; 
Love made them not: with acture63 they may be,...............................185
Where neither party is nor true nor kind:64
They sought their shame that so their shame did find, 
And so much less of shame in me remains,65
By how much of me their reproach contains. 

28
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~Among the many that mine eyes have seen,....................................190
Not one whose flame my heart so much as warm~ez_rsquo~d, 
Or my affection put to the smallest teen,66
Or any of my leisures ever charm~ez_rsquo~d: 
Harm have I done to them, but ne~ez_rsquo~er was harm~ez_rsquo~d; 
Kept hearts in liveries, but mine own was free,....................................195
And reign~ez_rsquo~d, commanding in his monarchy. 

29
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~Look here, what tributes wounded fancies sent me, 
Of paled pearls and rubies red as blood; 
Figuring that they their passions likewise lent me 
Of grief and blushes, aptly understood................................................200
In bloodless white and the encrimson~ez_rsquo~d mood; 
Effects of terror and dear modesty,
Encamp~ez_rsquo~d in hearts, but fighting outwardly. 

30
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~And, lo! behold these talents67 of their hair, 
With twisted metal amorously impleach~ez_rsquo~d,68........................................205
I have receiv~ez_rsquo~d from many a several fair, 
Their kind acceptance weepingly beseech~ez_rsquo~d, 
With the annexions69 of fair gems enrich~ez_rsquo~d, 
And deep-brain~ez_rsquo~d sonnets, that did amplify 
Each stone~ez_rsquo~s dear nature, worth, and quality........................................210

31
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~The diamond; why, ~ez_rsquo~twas beautiful and hard, 
Whereto70 his invis~ez_rsquo~d71 properties did tend; 
The deep-green emerald, in whose fresh regard 
Weak sights their sickly radiance do amend; 
The heaven-hued sapphire and the opal blend........................................215
With objects manifold: each several stone, 
With wit well blazon~ez_rsquo~d,72 smil~ez_rsquo~d or made some moan. 

32
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~Lo! all these trophies of affections hot, 
Of pensiv~ez_rsquo~d and subdu~ez_rsquo~d desires the tender,73
Nature hath charg~ez_rsquo~d me that I hoard them not,........................................220
But yield them up where I myself must render, 
That is, to you, my origin and ender;74
For these, of force,75 must your oblations76 be, 
Since I their altar, you enpatron me. 

33
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~O! then, advance of yours that phraseless77 hand,..................................225
Whose white weighs down the airy scale of praise;78
Take all these similes to your own command, 
Hallow~ez_rsquo~d with sighs that burning lungs did raise; 
What me your minister,79 for you obeys, 
Works under you; and to your audit80 comes...........................................230
Their distract parcels81 in combined sums.

34
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~Lo! this device was sent me from a nun, 
Or sister sanctified, of holiest note; 
Which late her noble suit82 in court did shun, 
Whose rarest havings made the blossoms dote;.......................................235
For she was sought by spirits of richest coat,83
But kept cold distance, and did thence remove, 
To spend her living in eternal love. 

35
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~But, O my sweet! what labour is ~ez_rsquo~t to leave
The thing we have not,84 mastering what not strives,....................................240
Playing the place which did no form receive,85
Playing patient sports in unconstrained gyves?86
She that her fame so to herself contrives,87
The scars of battle ~ez_rsquo~scapeth by the flight,88
And makes her absence valiant, not her might..........................................245

36
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~O! pardon me, in that my boast is true; 
The accident which brought me to her eye 
Upon the moment did her force subdue,
And now she would the caged cloister fly; 
Religious love put out Religion~ez_rsquo~s eye:........................................................250
Not to be tempted, would she be immur~ez_rsquo~d, 
And now, to tempt, all liberty procur~ez_rsquo~d. 

37
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~How mighty then you are, O! hear me tell: 
The broken bosoms that to me belong
Have emptied all their fountains in my well,................................................255
And mine I pour your ocean all among:
I strong89 o~ez_rsquo~er them, and you o~ez_rsquo~er me being strong, 
Must for your victory us all congest,90
As compound love to physic your cold breast. 

38
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~My parts91 had power to charm a sacred nun,...........................................260
Who, disciplin~ez_rsquo~d, ay, dieted92 in grace, 
Believ~ez_rsquo~d her eyes when they to assail begun, 
All vows and consecrations giving place. 
O most potential love! vow, bond, nor space, 
In thee hath neither sting, knot, nor confine,...............................................265
For thou art all, and all things else are thine. 

39
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~When thou impressest, what are precepts worth 
Of stale example? When thou wilt inflame, 
How coldly those impediments stand forth 
Of wealth, of filial fear, law, kindred, fame!..................................................270
Love~ez_rsquo~s arms are peace, ~ez_rsquo~gainst rule, ~ez_rsquo~gainst sense, ~ez_rsquo~gainst shame, 
And sweetens, in the suffering pangs it bears, 
The aloes of all forces, shocks, and fears. 

40
~ez_lsquo~~ez_ldquo~Now all these hearts that do on mine depend, 
Feeling it break, with bleeding groans they pine;.........................................275
And supplicant their sighs to you extend, 
To leave the battery that you make ~ez_rsquo~gainst mine, 
Lending soft audience to my sweet design, 
And credent soul to that strong-bonded oath 
That shall prefer and undertake my troth.~ez_rdquo~...................................................280

41
~ez_lsquo~This said, his watery eyes he did dismount, 
Whose sights till then were levell~ez_rsquo~d on my face; 
Each cheek a river running from a fount 
With brinish current downward flow~ez_rsquo~d apace. 
O! how the channel to the stream gave grace;.............................................285
Who glaz~ez_rsquo~d with crystal gate the glowing roses 
That flame through water which their hue encloses. 

42
~ez_lsquo~O father! what a hell of witchcraft lies 
In the small orb of one particular tear, 
But with the inundation of the eyes.............................................................290
What rocky heart to water will not wear? 
What breast so cold that is not warmed here? 
O cleft effect! cold modesty, hot wrath, 
Both fire from hence and chill extincture hath. 

43
~ez_lsquo~For, lo! his passion, but an art of craft,.......................................................295
Even there resolv~ez_rsquo~d my reason into tears; 
There my white stole of chastity I daff~ez_rsquo~d,93
Shook off my sober guards and civil fears; 
Appear to him, as he to me appears, 
All melting; though our drops this difference bore,........................................300
His poison~ez_rsquo~d me, and mine did him restore. 

44
~ez_lsquo~In him a plenitude of subtle matter, 
Applied to cautels,94 all strange forms receives, 
Of burning blushes, or of weeping water, 
Or swounding95 paleness; and he takes and leaves,......................................305
In either~ez_rsquo~s aptness, as it best deceives, 
To blush at speeches rank, to weep at woes, 
Or to turn white and swound at tragic shows: 

45
~ez_lsquo~That not a heart which in his level came 
Could ~ez_rsquo~scape the hail of his all-hurting aim,..................................................310
Showing fair nature is both kind and tame; 
And, veil~ez_rsquo~d in them, did win whom he would maim: 
Against the thing he sought he would exclaim; 
When he most burn~ez_rsquo~d in heart-wish~ez_rsquo~d luxury, 
He preach~ez_rsquo~d pure maid, and prais~ez_rsquo~d cold chastity..........................................315

46
~ez_lsquo~Thus merely with the garment of a Grace 
The naked and concealed fiend he cover~ez_rsquo~d; 
That the unexperient gave the tempter place, 
Which like a cherubin96 above them hover~ez_rsquo~d. 
Who, young and simple, would not be so lover~ez_rsquo~d?.........................................320
Ay me! I fell; and yet do question make 
What I should do again for such a sake. 

47
~ez_lsquo~O! that infected moisture of his eye, 
O! that false fire which in his cheek so glow~ez_rsquo~d, 
O! that forc~ez_rsquo~d thunder from his heart did fly,..................................................325
O! that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow~ez_rsquo~d, 
O! all that borrow~ez_rsquo~d motion seeming ow~ez_rsquo~d, 
Would yet again betray the fore-betray~ez_rsquo~d, 
And new pervert a reconciled maid.~ez_rsquo~


Notes

1.....concave . . . story: The cave-like formation in the hill echoed the story.
2.....sistering vale: Neighboring valley.
3.....double voice: Echoing voice.
4.....list: Listen to.
5.....papers: Love letters.
6.....platted: Plaited, braided.
7.....hive . . . straw: Straw hat shaped like a hive.
8.....scythed: Cut down, taken away.
9.....fell: Fierce.
10...lattice: Wrinkles.
11...sear'd: Withered, dried up.
12...eyne: Eyes.
13...season'd woe: Sadness seasoned with the salt from tears. 
14...shrieking . . . woe: Crying out words that the speaker cannot make out.
15...eyes . . . intend: Her gaze seems like a weapon that she intended to fire at the sky.
16...plat: Braid.
17...fillet: Band worn around the head to hold the hair in place.
18...favours . . . maund: Gifts from a basket.
19...margent: Bank, shore.
20...Applying . . . wet: Letting her tears fall into the water.
21...schedules: Love notes, love letters, etc.
22...sleided . . . Feat: Neat band of silk. 
23...fluxive: Flowing with tears.
24...unapproved: Unproven. (The writer of the letters and notes did not prove his love for her.)
25...Ink . . . here: The ink should be blacker to represent the man's offenses.
26...rents: Tears.
27...Sometime: At one time, formerly.
28...ruffle: Arrogant or pretentious behavior.
29...afflicted fancy: Woeful woman.
30...fastly: Close.
31...privileg'd by age: The "reverend man" is elderly. 
32...slides . . . bat: Slides his hands down the shaft of his staff.
33...comely-distant: Modestly or properly distant.
34...aught: Anything.
35...assuage: Ease, lessen.
36...blasting hour: Time when her hopes were dashed.
37...youthful suit: Attentions of a young man
38...maidens' . . .face: Young women stared at the handsome man.
39...What's . . . find: People will eagerly participate in what is enjoyable to do. 
40...On his visage . . . sawn: On his face was a small picture of what would be seen (sawn) in Paradise.
41...phoenix down: newly grown hair; fuzz.
42...termless: Youthful; having many years to live.
43...bare . . . wear: The bare skin was more attractive than the short growth of hair.
44...cost: The stubble
45...dear: Attractive.
46...maiden-tongu'd: Soft-spoken.
47...mov'd: Aroused his wrath; angered.
48...Did . . . truth: His appearance hid his falseness.
49...real habitude: True self, true nature; real personality.
50...gave . . . ornament: His superior qualities made his attire and ornaments look better.
51...replication: Answers.
52...craft of will: Cleverness in speaking; persuasiveness.
53...Consents bewitch'd: The listeners were enchanted by his words. 
54...Theirs . . . assign'd: The listeners believe what he says.
55...owe: Own.
56...And . . . simple: She was in possession of herself.
57...myself . . . forbid: Her sense of honor forbade her to yield to his charms.
58...Of . . . bleeding: She was aware of the ruination he brought on other young ladies.
59...foil: Thin piece of metal on which an inferior jewel is placed to increase its glitter. 
60...she . . . assay: She must judge the man for herself; what others say is not enough.
61...That . . . proof: We should not reach a conclusion on the proof presented by others.
62...And . . . afraid: Don't doubt the vows of love I make to you.
63...acture: Acts of passion.
64...Where . . . kind: When neither party is in love.
65...And . . . remains: Because I was not in love, I am not ashamed.
66...put . . . teen: Caused the smallest sadness or sorrow (teen).
67...talents: Prizes, tokens.
68...impleach'd: twined, intertwined, entwined, coiled.
69...annexions: additions.
70...Whereto: Toward what place? For what purpose?
71...invis'd: Invisible, undetectable.
72...With . . . blazon'd: With descriptions blazoned in the sonnets (mentioned in line 209).
73...Of . . . tender: Given out of disheartened and subdued desires.
74...ender: Conclusion, completion.
75...of force: Necessarily.
76...oblations: Gifts, offerings.
77...phraseless: So beautiful that it is beyond description.
78...Whose . . . praise: The whiteness, so beautiful, cannot be weighed with mere words.
79...minister: Attendant, servant.
80...to . . . audit: To your attention.
81...distract parcels: Discrete, or separate, items.
82...suit: Appearance.
83...spirits . . . coat: Highborn persons; persons with a coat of arms.
84...what labour . . . not: How difficult is it to give up something that we did not have in the first place? The young man is being sarcastic.
85...Playing . . . receive: This means, in effect, that you cannot take credit for sacrificing something that you never had.
86...Playing . . . gyves: Pretending to suffer as captives even though we have never been placed in shackles (gyves).
87...She . . . contrives: She who fashions a reputation.
88...scars . . . flight: Runs away rather than standing fast and resisting temptation.
89...strong: Triumphant.
90...Must . . . congest: Believing yourself victorious over me, you must gather us all together and use us as a cure for your coldness.
91...parts: Allure.
92...dieted: Steeped; regimented.
93...daff'd: Removed.
94...cautels: Tricks, deceptions.
95...swounding: Swooning.
96...cherubin: Cherubim (angels).



.
.
Themes

Complaint of a Wronged Woman

The countryside echoes with "clamours of all size, both high and low" (line 21) of a woman who has been seduced, then abandoned. When an elderly farmer asks her what is wong, she complains to him about the young philanderer who used her.

Deceit

The young man used deception, couched in clever words, to persuade the lady to yield to him. She says that he had "on the tip of his subduing tongue / All kinds of arguments and question deep, / All replication prompt, and reason strong" (lines 121-122).

Fickleness

In spite of her bitterness and anger against the devious young man, the woman expresses a wish at the end of the poem that the young man would "new pervert a reconciled maid."
 

Figures of Speech

Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem.

Alliteration

a fickle maid full pale (line 5)
Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside (line 32)
crooked curls (line 85)
So on the tip of his subduing tongue (line 120)
Anaphora
What rounds, what bounds, what course, what stop he makes!~ez_rdquo~ 

Love~ez_rsquo~s arms are peace, ~ez_rsquo~gainst rule, ~ez_rsquo~gainst sense, ~ez_rsquo~gainst shame,

~ez_lsquo~O! that infected moisture of his eye, 
O! that false fire which in his cheek so glow~ez_rsquo~d, 
O! that forc~ez_rsquo~d thunder from his heart did fly,
O! that sad breath his spongy lungs bestow~ez_rsquo~d, 
O! all that borrow~ez_rsquo~d motion seeming ow~ez_rsquo~d

Hyperbole
A thousand favours from a maund she drew (line 36)
Metaphor
Storming her world with sorrow~ez_rsquo~s wind and rain (line 7)
Comparison of the woman's emotions with the wind and rain of a storm

Upon her head a platted hive of straw (line 8)
Comparison of the woman's hat to a hive

Some beauty peep~ez_rsquo~d through lattice of sear~ez_rsquo~d age (line 14)
Comparison of the woman's wrinkles to lattice

I might as yet have been a spreading flower.(line 75)
The woman compares herself to a flower.

this false jewel (line 154)
Comparison of the young man to a false gem

Paradox
blunting us to make our wits more keen. (line 161)
Personification
Though Reason weep, and cry ~ez_ldquo~It is thy last.~ez_rdquo~ (line 168)
Comparison of reason to a person
Simile
His phoenix down began but to appear 
Like unshorn velvet on that termless skin (line 93-94)
Comparison of the young man's facial hair to velvet

rubies red as blood (line 198)
Comparison of rubies to blood

.
Plays on DVD (or VHS) 
..
Play Director Actors
Antony and Cleopatra (1974) Trevor Nunn, John Schoffield Richard Johnson, Janet Suzman
Antony and Cleopatra BBC Production Jane Lapotaire 
As You Like It (2010) Thea Sharrock Jack Laskey, Naomi Frederick
As You Like It (1937) Paul Czinner Henry Ainley, Felix Aylmer
The Comedy of Errors BBC Production Not Listed
Coriolanus BBC Production Alan Howard, Irene Worth
Cymbeline Elijah Moshinsky Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Helen Mirren
Gift Box: The Comedies BBC Production Various
Gift Box: The Histories BBC Production Various
Gift Box: The Tragedies BBC Production Various
Hamlet (1948)  Laurence Olivier Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons
Hamlet (1990)  Kevin Kline Kevin Kline
Hamlet(1991)  Franco Zeffirelli Mel Gibson, Glenn Close
Hamlet (1996)  Kenneth Branagh Kenneth Branagh, 
Hamlet (2009) Gregory Doran David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie
Hamlet (1964)  John Gielgud, Bill Colleran Richard Burton, Hume Cronyn
Hamlet (1964)  Grigori Kozintsev Innokenti Smoktunovsky
Hamlet (2000)  Cambpell Scott, Eric Simonson Campbell Scott, Blair Brown
Henry V (1989)  Kenneth Branagh Kenneth Branaugh, Derek Jacobi
Henry V( 1946)  Laurence Olivier Leslie Banks, Felix Aylmer
Henry VI Part I BBC Production Peter Benson, Trevor Peacock
Henry VI Part II BBC Production Not Listed
Henry VI Part III BBC Production Not Listed
Henry VIII BBC Production John Stride, Claire Bloom, Julian Glover
Julius Caesar BBC Production Richard Pasco, Keith Michell
Julius Caesar (1950)  David Bradley Charlton Heston
Julius Caesar (1953)  Joseph L. Mankiewicz Marlon Brando, James Mason
Julius Caesar (1970)  Stuart Burge Charlton Heston, Jason Robards
King John BBC Production Not Listed
King Lear (1970) Grigori Kozintsev Yuri Yarvet
King Lear (1971) Peter Brook Cyril Cusack, Susan Engel
King Lear (1974)  Edwin Sherin James Earl Jones
King Lear (1976)  Tony Davenall Patrick Mower, Ann Lynn
King Lear (1984)  Michael Elliott Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakely
King Lear (1997)  Richard Eyre Ian Holm
Love's Labour's Lost (2000) Kenneth Branagh Kenneth Branagh, Alicia Silverstone 
Love's Labour's Lost BBC Production) Not Listed
Macbeth (1978)  Philip Casson Ian McKellen, Judy Dench
Macbeth BBC Production Not Listed
The Merchant of Venice BBC Production Warren Mitchell, Gemma Jones
The Merchant of Venice (2001)  Christ Hunt, Trevor Nunn David Bamber, Peter De Jersey
The Merchant of Venice (1973) John Sichel Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1970)  Not Listed Leon Charles, Gloria Grahame
Midsummer Night's Dream (1996)  Adrian Noble Lindsay Duncan, Alex Jennings
A Midsummer Night's Dream  (1999) Michael Hoffman Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)  Kenneth Branaugh Branaugh, Emma Thompson
Much Ado About Nothing (1973)  Nick Havinga  Sam Waterston, F. Murray Abraham
Othello (2005)  Janet Suzman Richard Haines, John Kaki
Othello (1990)  Trevor Nunn Ian McKellen, Michael Grandage
Othello (1965)  Stuart Burge Laurence Olivier, Frank Finlay
Othello (1955)  Orson Welles Orson Welles
Othello (1983)  Franklin Melton Peter MacLean, Bob Hoskins, Jenny Agutter
Ran  (1985) Japanese Version of King Lear  Akira Kurosawa Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao
Richard II (2001)  John Farrell  Matte Osian, Kadina de Elejalde
Richard III (1912)  André Calmettes, James Keane  Robert Gemp, Frederick Warde
Richard III - Criterion Collection (1956)  Laurence Olivier Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson
Richard III (1995)  Richard Loncraine Ian McKellen, Annette Bening
Richard III BBC Production Ron Cook, Brian Protheroe, Michael Byrne
Romeo and Juliet (1968)  Franco Zeffirelli Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey
Romeo and Juliet (1996)  Baz Luhrmann Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes
Romeo and Juliet (1976)  Joan Kemp-Welch Christopher Neame, Ann Hasson
Romeo and Juliet BBC Production John Gielgud, Rebecca Saire, Patrick Ryecart
The Taming of the Shrew Franco Zeffirelli Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton
The Taming of the Shrew Kirk Browning Raye Birk, Earl Boen, Ron Boussom
The Taming of The Shrew Not Listed Franklin Seales, Karen Austin 
The Tempest Paul Mazursky John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands
The Tempest (1998) Jack Bender Peter Fonda, John Glover, Harold Perrineau,
Throne of Blood (1961) Macbeth in Japan  Akira Kurosawa Toshirô Mifune, Isuzu Yamada
Twelfth Night (1996)  Trevor Nunn Helena Bonham Carter
Twelfth Night BBC Production Not Listed
The Two Gentlemen of Verona BBC Production John Hudson, Joanne Pearce
The Winter's Tale  (2005)  Greg Doran Royal Shakespeare Company
The Winter's Tale BBC Production Not Listed

.
A lover's complaint is a compressed poem detailing the predicament of an abandoned female lover who laments her undoing at the hands of an unscrupulous male seducer. It was first printed at the end of Shake-speares Sonnets, published by Thomas Thorpe in 1609, where it is preceded by a separate heading and a further ascription to Shakespeare. The poem has long presented something of an enigma to scholars and has for centuries been overlooked and undervalued. Readers are often frustrated by the poem's complex syntax, which occasionally verges on impenetrability; more significantly, the poem's reception history is characterized by uncertainty about its attribution to Shakespeare and doubts over whether its 1609 appearance was authorized. Ward E. Y. Elliott and Robert J. Valenza recently revived the authorship debate, arguing on the basis of computer-assisted textual analysis that both A Lover's Complaint and A Funeral Elegy "fail too many Shakespeare tests to look much like Shakespeare." Other scholars have concluded to the cont
 
 

Popular Pages