Your love and pity doth th’ impression fill
Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow;
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you o’er green my bad, my good allow?
You are my all the world, and I must strive
To know my shames and praises from your tongue;
None else to me, nor I to none alive,
That my steeled sense or changes right or wrong.
In so profound abysm I throw all care
Of others’ voices, that my adder’s sense
To critic and to flatt’rer stopped are.
Mark how with my neglect I do dispense:
You are so strongly in my purpose bred
That all the world besides methinks y’are dead.
Sonnet 112: Translation to modern English
Your love and pity compensate for the gossip that’s branded me because what do I care about being called either good or bad as long as you ignore the bad things about me and acknowledge the things that are good? You’re all the world to me and I have to try and work out what’s good or bad about myself from the things you say. No-one else matters to me and I don’t matter to anyone alive so it’s entirely your opinion that determines what’s right or wrong. I have such a profound contempt for what others say that my sharp senses are cut off from both criticism and flattery. Notice how I don’t care that the world neglects me. You mean so much to me that everyone, apart from me, thinks you’re dead.
The first two lines recall the “brand” and the “pity” that the poet discussed in the previous sonnet: “Your love and pity doth th’ impression fill / Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow.” Exactly what caused this “vulgar scandal” is unclear, although many critics surmise that the poet is a public performer who has received notoriety because of a past action, perhaps a bad performance onstage. The poet does not care what critics or flatterers think so long as the young man does not think ill of him: “For what care I who calls me well or ill, / So you o’er-green my bad, my good allow?” The creative term “o’er-green” is Shakespeare’s own invention and refers to the poet’s hopes the young man will conceal the “vulgar scandal” with his love.
As in earlier sonnets, the poet stresses the young man’s importance to him. He continues to place great faith in the youth, who remains his only standard of measurement. “You are my all the world,” he tells the youth, a sentiment that he emphasizes in the final couplet: “You are so strongly in my purpose bred / That all the world besides methinks are dead.” It now appears that the poet’s affections for “another youth” are truly dead, which he promised they were in Sonnet 110.