Portrait of William Shakespeare

Shakespeare on the ruler who has “the power to hurt and will do none” (1609)

Found in: The Poems and Glossary (Oxford ed.)

A political reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 (1609) is that he admires the ruler who has the “power to hurt and will do none”. A ruler who follows this practice will, he predicts, “inherit heaven’s graces”:

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

They that have power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show, Who, moving others, are themselves as stone, Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow; They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces And husband nature’s riches from expense …