Truth and honesty are key elements to a good, healthy relationship. However, in Shakespeare's Sonnet 138, the key to a healthy relationship between the speaker and the Dark Lady is keeping up the lies they have constructed for one another. Through wordplay Shakespeare creates different levels of meaning, in doing this, he shows the nature of truth and flattery in relationships.
Shakespeare's Sonnet 138 is one of his sonnets about the Dark Lady. Dark both in appearance, and in her actions, she is once again the subject of the sonnet. The speaker is the lover of the Dark Lady. Whether the speaker is married to her or not is not completely clear. Based on lines regarding age “...she knows my days are past the best” (6), it seems that they have been together for a long time, but not necessarily married. The sonnet doesn't sound like the speaker is talking to anyone, but rather musing to himself. When reading aloud, the sonnet sounds like it could a soliloquy, simply the speakers saying his thoughts out loud to himself.
The first quatrain In this sonnet the speaker starts to reveal more about the relationship between him and the Dark Lady, and also his fear of growing old. He starts the sonnet by saying “When my love swears she is made of truth/ I do believe her, though I know she lies” (1-2). In these first two lines the speaker contradicts himself right away by saying that he believes her, but knows she is not telling the truth. He is very aware of the delusion he is in, but he is willing to let it pass. He is willing to let it pass because of the mutual dishonesty that exists in the relationship. In the next two lines, he talks about youth, and age. He is talking about the Dark Lady considering him a younger man than he actually is. A younger man who is “unlearned of the world's false subtleties”(4). He is letting her get away with her infidelity because he is so uncomfortable with his own age, and she treats him like he is a younger man.
In the second quatrain, the speaker is talking more about growing old, and the fact that both of them are lying to each other. This quatrain confirms what is set up in the first quatrain, that she treats him like he is a younger man than he is. The line “Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young”(5) is the speaker telling us that he is tricking himself into believing that she thinks he is like a younger man. The speaker is not very confident at all. He lets his own vanity get in the way of the Dark Lady's infidelities. She tells him what he wants to hear even though she knows it's not true, as is evident when the speaker says “Although she knows my days are past the best”(6) and he gladly accepts these lies. With her accepting the lie that he is a younger man, in return, he must accept the lie that she is telling him. In the last line of the quatrain, the line “On both sides thus is a simple truth...