Shakespeare's Sonnets Translation Sonnet 121
'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed, When not to be receives reproach of being, And the just pleasure lost which is so deemed Not by our feeling but by others' seeing. For why should others' false adulterate eyes Give salutation to my sportive blood? Or on my frailties why are frailer spies, Which in their wills count bad what I think good? No, I am that I am, and they that level At my abuses reckon up their own; I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel. By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown, Unless this general evil they maintain: All men are bad, and in their badness reign.
It's better to be vile than to have a vile reputation,
When not to be (vile) is reproached for being (vile),
And the legitimate pleasure is lost when it is labeled as vile
Not by our feeling but by others who see us.
For why should the false and unfaithful eyes of others,
Point out my playful behavior?
Or why should weaker people spy on my weaknesses,
Which in their desires seem bad what I think is good?
No, I am what I am, and those who aim
At my flaws should count their own sins;
Maybe I am straight, and they are crooked.
My actions shouldn't be revealed by their disgusting thoughts,
Unless they maintain this universal maxim:
All men are bad, and they prevail in their wickedness.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
- Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
- Downloads of 845 LitCharts Lit Guides
- Explanations and citation info for 19,733 quotes covering 845 books
- Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
- PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms