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Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Sonnets are Shakespeare's most popular works, and a few of them, such as Sonnet 18 (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day), Sonnet 116 (Let me not to the marriage of true minds), and Sonnet 73 (That time of year thou mayst in me behold), have become the most widely-read poems in all of English literature. Here you will find the text of each Shakespearean sonnet with commentary for most.

Sonnet 1-From fairest creatures we desire increase
Sonnet 2-When forty winters shall beseige thy brow
Sonnet 3-Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest
Sonnet 4-Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Sonnet 5-Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
Sonnet 6-Then let not winter's ragged hand deface
Sonnet 7-Lo! in the orient when the gracious light
Sonnet 8-Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sonnet 9-Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye
Sonnet 10-For shame! deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Sonnet 11-As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest
Sonnet 12-When I do count the clock that tells the time,
Sonnet 13-O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are
Sonnet 14-Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck
Sonnet 15-When I consider every thing that grows
Sonnet 16-But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Sonnet 17-Who will believe my verse in time to come,
Sonnet 18-Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Sonnet 19-Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws
Sonnet 20-A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Sonnet 21-So is it not with me as with that Muse
Sonnet 22-My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
Sonnet 23-As an unperfect actor on the stage
Sonnet 24-Mine eye hath play'd the painter and hath stell'd
Sonnet 25-Let those who are in favour with their stars
Sonnet 26-Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Sonnet 27-Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
Sonnet 28-How can I then return in happy plight,
Sonnet 29-When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
Sonnet 30-When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
Sonnet 31-Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Sonnet 32-If thou survive my well-contented day,
Sonnet 33-Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Sonnet 34-Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
Sonnet 35-No more be grieved at that which thou hast done
Sonnet 36-Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Sonnet 37-As a decrepit father takes delight
Sonnet 38-How can my Muse want subject to invent,
Sonnet 39-O, how thy worth with manners may I sing
Sonnet 40-Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all;
Sonnet 41-Those petty wrongs that liberty commits,
Sonnet 42-That thou hast her, it is not all my grief,
Sonnet 43-When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
Sonnet 44-If the dull substance of my flesh were thought
Sonnet 45-The other two, slight air and purging fire,
Sonnet 46-Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
Sonnet 47-Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took
Sonnet 48-How careful was I, when I took my way,
Sonnet 49-Against that time, if ever that time come,
Sonnet 50-How heavy do I journey on the way,
Sonnet 51-Thus can my love excuse the slow offence
Sonnet 52-So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Sonnet 53-What is your substance, whereof are you made,
Sonnet 54-O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
Sonnet 55-Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Sonnet 56-Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Sonnet 57-Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Sonnet 58-That god forbid that made me first your slave
Sonnet 59-If there be nothing new, but that which is
Sonnet 60-Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
Sonnet 61-Is it thy will thy image should keep open
Sonnet 62-Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
Sonnet 63-Against my love shall be, as I am now,
Sonnet 64-When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
Sonnet 65-Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea
Sonnet 66-Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
Sonnet 67-Ah! wherefore with infection should he live,
Sonnet 68-Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
Sonnet 69-Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view
Sonnet 70-That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
Sonnet 71-No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Sonnet 72-O, lest the world should task you to recite
Sonnet 73-That time of year thou mayst in me behold
Sonnet 74-But be contented: when that fell arrest
Sonnet 75-So are you to my thoughts as food to life
Sonnet 76-Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
Sonnet 77-Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
Sonnet 78-So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse
Sonnet 79-Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
Sonnet 80-O, how I faint when I of you do write
Sonnet 81-Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Sonnet 82-I grant thou wert not married to my Muse
Sonnet 83-I never saw that you did painting need
Sonnet 84-Who is it that says most? which can say more
Sonnet 85-My tongue -tied Muse in manners holds her still,
Sonnet 86-Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Sonnet 87-Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
Sonnet 88-When thou shalt be disposed to set me light,
Sonnet 89-Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,
Sonnet 90-Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;
Sonnet 91-Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Sonnet 92-But do thy worst to steal thyself away,
Sonnet 93-So shall I live, supposing thou art true,
Sonnet 94-They that have power to hurt and will do none,
Sonnet 95-How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame
Sonnet 96-Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness;
Sonnet 97-How like a winter hath my absence been
Sonnet 98-From you have I been absent in the spring,
Sonnet 99-The forward violet thus did I chide
Sonnet 100-Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long
Sonnet 101-O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends
Sonnet 102-My love is strengthen'd, though more weak in seeming;
Sonnet 103-Alack, what poverty my Muse brings forth,
Sonnet 104-To me, fair friend, you never can be old
Sonnet 105-Let not my love be call'd idolatry,
Sonnet 106-When in the chronicle of wasted time
Sonnet 107-Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Sonnet 108-What's in the brain that ink may character
Sonnet 109-O, never say that I was false of heart
Sonnet 110-Alas, 'tis true I have gone here and there
Sonnet 111-O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
Sonnet 112-Your love and pity doth the impression fill
Sonnet 113-Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind;
Sonnet 114-Or whether doth my mind, being crown'd with you,
Sonnet 115-Those lines that I before have writ do lie,
Sonnet 116-Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Sonnet 117-Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all
Sonnet 118-Like as, to make our appetites more keen,
Sonnet 119-What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
Sonnet 120-That you were once unkind befriends me now,
Sonnet 121-'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
Sonnet 122-Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Sonnet 123-No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:
Sonnet 124-If my dear love were but the child of state,
Sonnet 125-Were 't aught to me I bore the canopy,
Sonnet 126-O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
Sonnet 127-if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
Sonnet 128-oft, when thou, my music, music play'st,
Sonnet 129-The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Sonnet 130-My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
Sonnet 131-Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,
Sonnet 132-Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Sonnet 133-Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
Sonnet 134-So, now I have confess'd that he is thine,
Sonnet 135-Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy 'Will,'
Sonnet 136-If thy soul cheque thee that I come so near,
Sonnet 137-Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes,
Sonnet 138-When my love swears that she is made of truth
Sonnet 139-O, call not me to justify the wrong
Sonnet 140-Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press
Sonnet 141-In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes
Sonnet 142-Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate
Sonnet 143-Lo! as a careful housewife runs to catch
Sonnet 144-Two loves I have of comfort and despair
Sonnet 145-Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Sonnet 146-Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
Sonnet 147-My love is as a fever, longing still
Sonnet 148-O me, what eyes hath Love put in my head,
Sonnet 149-Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not,
Sonnet 150-O, from what power hast thou this powerful might
Sonnet 151-Love is too young to know what conscience is;
Sonnet 152-In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn,
Sonnet 153-Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep:
Sonnet 154-The little Love-god lying once asleep

Themes in the Sonnets

Although love is the overarching theme of the sonnets, there are three specific underlying themes: (1) the brevity of life, (2) the transience of beauty, and (3) the trappings of desire. The first two of these underlying themes are the focus of the early sonnets addressed to the young man (in particular Sonnets 1-17) where the poet argues that having children to carry on one's beauty is the only way to conquer the ravages of time. In the middle sonnets of the young man sequence the poet tries to immortalize the young man through his own poetry (the most famous examples being Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 55). Read on...

More to Explore

 Introduction to Shakespeare's Sonnets
 Shakespearean Sonnet Style
 How to Analyze a Shakespearean Sonnet
 The Rules of Shakespearean Sonnets
 The Contents of the Sonnets in Brief

 Shakespeare's Sonnets: Q & A
 Theories Regarding the Sonnets
 Are Shakespeare's Sonnets Autobiographical?
 Petrarch's Influence on Shakespeare
 Theme Organization in the Sonnets

Sonnets in the Spotlight

Sonnet 130 is the poet's pragmatic tribute to his uncomely mistress, commonly referred to as the dark lady because of her dun complexion. The dark lady, who ultimately betrays the poet, appears in sonnets 127 to 154. Sonnet 130 is clearly a parody of the conventional love sonnet, made popular by Petrarch and, in particular, made popular in England by Sidney's use of the Petrarchan form in his epic poem Astrophel and Stella.


Sonnet 55 is one of Shakespeare's most famous works and a noticeable deviation from other sonnets in which he appears insecure about his relationships and his own self-worth. Here we find an impassioned burst of confidence as the poet claims to have the power to keep his friend's memory alive evermore.


In Sonnet 73 the poet prepares his young friend, not for the approaching literal death of his body, but the metaphorical death of his youth and passion. The poet's deep insecurities swell irrepressibly as he concludes that the young man is now focused only on the signs of his aging -- as the poet surely is himself. This is illustrated by the linear development of the three quatrains.


"No. 126 is not a true sonnet, but a poem in six couplets, and has frequently been called an "envoy" or conclusion to the whole collection up to this point. It is addressed to "my lovely boy," presumably the same person as the "lovely youth" of No. 54 and the "sweet boy" of 108, and tells him that, though for the present his beauty still escapes the hand of Time, Nature will in the end insist on her sovereignty and surrender him to age. In other words, it returns to a thought conspicuous in the sonnets standing near the beginning of the collection; but it is a very unfit envoy for those immediately preceding, and may well be thought of as inserted here by a puzzled editor who knew no better place for it." Raymond M. Alden. More on sonnet grouping...


 Shakespeare's Treatment of Love
 Shakespeare's Greatest Love Poem
 Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton

 The Order of the Sonnets
 The Date of the Sonnets
 Who was Mr. W. H.?
 Are all the Sonnets addressed to two Persons?
 Who was The Rival Poet?

 Shakespeare on Jealousy
 Shakespeare on Lawyers
 Shakespeare on Lust
 Shakespeare on Marriage

 Portraits of Shakespeare
 Shakespeare's Contemporaries
 Shakespeare's Sexuality

 Worst Diseases in Shakespeare's London
 Shakespeare on the Seasons
 Shakespeare on Sleep

Time and Death

"Both Time and Death, we have seen, are personified in the Sonnets, are thought of and spoken of as churlish and malevolent entities. But they had been personified in Shakespeare's imagination with equal vividness and with the same kind of abhorrence before the Sonnets were written. There is a long apostrophe to Death in the Venus and Adonis, and there is a longer apostrophe to Time in the Lucrece, showing that in 1593 and 1594, or in Shakespeare's thirtieth year, if not before, the personification of these two names for destruction and mutability, with a kind of loathing of both, was one of his fixed habits of thought. The passages start out from the two poems so prominently, and, with all Shakespeare's art of weaving them in, have such a character of bold irrelevancy to any real necessities of the mere stories in which they are inserted, that one feels they are there because Shakespeare was determined that they should be." (David Masson. Shakespeare Personally. London: Smith, Elder & Co.)