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Outline of the Themes in Shakespeare's Sonnets

From Poems and sonnets: Booklover's Edition. Ed. The University Society and Israel Gollancz. New York: University Society Press.

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A. "THE BETTER ANGEL": i-cxxvi.

I. Love's Adoration: i.-xxvi.
Beauty and goodness must live on     in the beloved's children (i.-xvi.)
in the poet's verse (xvii.-xxv.)
Envoy (xxvi.)
II. Love's Trials: xxvii.-xcix.
(a) The bitterness of absence (xxvii.-xxxii.)     The sense of loss (xxvii., xxviii.)
Night-Thoughts     The Poet's outcast state (xxix.)
Bereavements (xxx.)
Love dispels the gloom (xxix.-xxxi.)
Envoy (xxxii.)
(b) Love's first disillusioning (xxxiii.-xlii.)     "He was but one hour mine" (xxxiii.)
Love's excuses (xxxv., xli.)
Love's self-disparagement (xxxvi., xxxvii.)
Love's willing pain (xxxviii.)
Love's self-denial (xxxix.)
The gain of loss (xlii.)
(?) Envoy (xlii.)
(c) Love's longings and prophetic fears (xliii.-lv.)     Love-longing (xliii.-xlvii.)
Fears (xlviii.)
Self-abasement (xlix.)
The journey from, contrasted with journey to, his friend (l., li.)
The pleasures of hope (lii.)
The pleasures of imagination (liii.)
Love's assurance (liv.)
Envoy (lv.)
(d) Love's growing distrust and melancholy (lvi.-lxxv.)     Love must watch and wait and believe (lvi.-lviii.)
Despite ancient doctrines (lix.-lx.)
Nevertheless distrustful thoughts arise (lxi.)
Introspection and self-accusation (lxii.-lxiii.)
Melancholy thoughts (lxiv.-lxvii; lxxi.-lxxiii.)
The beloved's beauty redeems the world (lxix.)
Detractors are slanderers (lxx.)
The solace of poetry (lxxiv.)
Envoy (lv.)
(e) Love's jealousy (lxxv.-xcvi.)     The Poet's reply to his critics (lxxvi., lxxvii.)
Alien pens (lxxviii.)
The rival poet (lxxix.-lxxxvi.)
The poet's rude awakening (lxxxvii.)
His devotion constant, through mutual love at and end (lxxxviii., lxxxix.)
He longs for the full force of Fortune's spite (xc.)
The posession of his friend's love alone made him truly fortunate (xci.)
Happily, its loss means loss of life (xcii.)
But he must not deceive himself,
A sweet face may harbour false thoughts (xciii.)
'Tis a sign of greatness to be self-contained (xciv.)
But the great must beware of corruption (xcv.)
Beauty and grace cannot always transfigure vice (xcv.)
Envoy (lv.)
(f) Love's farewell tribute (xcvii.-xcix.)     Absence in Summer and Autumn (xcvii.)
Absence in Spring (xcviii.)
Envoy (xcix.)

Interval of a year or two.

III. LOVE'S TRIUMPH: c.-cxxvi.

The re-awakening (c.)
Time cannot change the beloved (civ.)
Chivalrous poetry prophetic of his friend (cvi.)
Love finds new conceits (cviii.)
Love and pity (cxii.)
Love grows stronger through error (cxv.)
Error tests friendship (cxvii.-cxix.)
The Poet rebuts malicious charges (cxxi.)
The Poet's love not "the child of state" (cxxiv.)

The Poet's silence (cii.-ciii.)
The Poet's eulogies (cv.)
Love survives ill-forebodings (cvii.)
The Poet's confessions (cix.- cxi.)
Love's imaginings (cxiii., cxiv.)
Love superior to dangers and trials (cxvi.)
Still apologetic (cxx.-cxxii.)
Love conquers Time (cxxiii.)
The Poet resents the calumny of being a time-server cxxv.)
Envoy (cxxvi.)


B. "THE WORSER SPIRIT": cxxvii-clii.

(Cp. xxxiii.-xlii.)


C. "LOVE'S FIRE": cliii.-cliv.


How to cite this article:

Shakespeare, William. Poems and sonnets: Booklover's Edition. Ed. The University Society and Israel Gollancz. New York: University Society Press, 1901. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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