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The Sonnets

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Shakespeare's Sonnets (1-154)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,43066959 (4.26)3 / 111
Fiction. Poetry. HTML:

The Sonnets compiles 154 Sonnets written by Shakespeare on all manner of themes from love and fidelity to politics and lineage. Many of the sonnets - in particular the first 17, commonly called the procreation sonnets - were commissioned, a fact which calls a simple, romantic reading into question.

.… (more)
  1. 20
    An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets by Stephen Booth (davidcla)
    davidcla: If you really, really get into the Sonnets, try this edition, which has the most complete and oddest notes. This edition also contains a facsimile of the 1609 text.
  2. 00
    Such Is My Love: A Study of Shakespeare's Sonnets by Joseph Pequigney (Jakujin)
  3. 00
    Love's Fire: Seven New Plays Inspired By Seven Shakespearean Sonnets by Acting Co. (TheLittlePhrase)
  4. 00
    The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets by Helen Vendler (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: An excellent explanation of the sonnets
  5. 113
    Twilight / New Moon / Eclipse / Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (LCoale1)
    LCoale1: The emotions of Edward, Bella, and Jacob seem to come straight from these sonnets and, surprisingly, really helped me to understand Shakespeare's emotions and messages. Although the writing styles are about as different as can be, the themes are nearly identical - I swear I found paraphrases of lines of Shakespeare used as thoughts and dialogue in Breaking Dawn, specifically.… (more)

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English (57)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
A stunning edition. Incredibly dense but rarely arrogant! Love it. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |
At least there are many ways to get opinions on what Shakespeare meant in each poem. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 12, 2023 |
37. The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
editor: Stephen Orgel, with introduction by John Hollander (1961, 1970, 2001)
published: originally 1609. This edition says 2001 but has a 2010 reference.
format: 193-page Pelican Shakespeare paperback
acquired: 2019 (with kidzdoc, at the Joseph Fox in Philadelphia, which closed earlier this year)
read: Jul 3 – Aug 19 time reading: 12:18, 3.8 mpp
rating: 5
genre/style: Classic poetry theme: Shakespeare
about the author: April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

-- I read these along with another edition: All the Sonnets of Shakespeare edited by Paul Edmondson & Stanley Wells]

I read these as a group read on Litsy, at a pace of 22 sonnets a weak, or roughly 3 a day. They are really difficult to read. They take time, and you have to read them a few times, just to get the surface meaning. It's nothing like his plays, which are all light fun in comparison. For perspective, we usually at have 10-15 people in our group reads, but only four of us were really active for these. My feeling on finishing them was akin to having just finished a marathon. I was happy I made it. Then I went back and read the first 126 poems again, but rapidly, getting a different take. But both ways were rewarding.

They‘re difficult, but as you work through them they do open themselves up with so much language play. They are full of lines and stanza's and phrases that strike and stun and that you want to remember, especially once they click. They stretch the reader's mindset. And they reward re-reading. Each visit seems to give a different poem, and a different experience, even as favorite lines reward with recognition.

My favorite stanzas are those that open Sonnets 60 & 65, ones I would like to etch into memory. Sonnet 60 opens on the relentless ripples and their implications for wearing time:

Like as the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

(Full sonnet here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45095/sonnet-60-like-as-the-waves-make-to... )

Sonnet 65 opens on how the world destroys those impractical fragile beautiful things we love:

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

(Full sonnet here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50646/sonnet-65-since-brass-nor-stone-nor... )

There is also a curious thing about the subject. I don't normally think about the nature of Shakespearean all-male theatre-crews off stage. Surely they must have been a draw to gay men. I just never thought about it with Shakespeare. (Are there any gay characters in his plays...other than the scene Coriolanus?) Anyway, these are mostly gay poems. This was a thing in 1590's London--both Petrarchan sonnets and gay sonnets were in vogue. So Shakespeare was writing to fashion. But I never thought of him as gay, and I can't picture the author of these poems as straight. So... it requires some mental adjusting.

Another curious thing is that Shakespeare may not have been involved in the 1609 publication of these sonnets. Which means we have to wonder how private these were, and also about their ordering. There is a narrative here. A man chides another man, a youth, about finding a woman and having children to perpetuate his line, or, as the sonnets suggest, his youth. Then Sonnet 18 comes, the most famous. "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?" And it's here that it comes clear our writer is in love with this young man. Sonnets 18-126 go through a whole assortment of love's emotions - direct love, being apart, staying awake all night, jealousy, and then surprisingly asking for forgiveness, and what might be construed as a breakup. Within are rants on time and death and public reputation and criticism. It is the heart of this collections and, both in sum and in parts, really beautiful, but not simply. The passive-aggressive string is raw. Sonnets 127-152 are the dark lady sonnets. They are anti-Petrarchan. This lady is described as unattractive, impure, and unfaithful. (I imagined a common prostitute). Also these poems are much more difficult to follow. The collection closes with two playful Greek references to the flame of Love run amok.

The Pelican Edition

I like the Pelican edition. It's minimalist, with an interesting but not very helpful intro. The notes were curt, but smart and insightful. It doesn‘t have any real analysis.

So the Sonnets have a different appeal from Shakespeare's plays. They are not for the faint of heart. They do reward, and they reward re-reading and re-reading more. Recommended for the brave.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/342768#7923261 ( )
  dchaikin | Sep 4, 2022 |
A difficult art form, and laid out by a master. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Mar 17, 2022 |
I enjoy listening to the poetry ( )
  nx74defiant | Feb 15, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
I väntan på att experterna en dag avslöjar sanningen om ”the Dark Lady” och ”the Fair Youth” får vi vanliga läsare fortsätta att njuta av sonetternas tidlösa musik. Det blir lättare nu med Eva Ströms hjälp.
added by Jannes | editDagens nyheter, Leif Zern (Feb 24, 2011)
Det fenomenala med Shakespeare är hans förmåga att formulera sådana slitna tankar nytt och fräscht. Och Eva Ström hittar genomgående svenska motsvarigheter till hans kombinationer av komplicerad metaforik och raka utsagor.
Any way I can look at it, his achievement seems to me extraordinarily impressive.
added by davidcla | editNew York Review of Books, Frank Kermode (pay site) (Nov 5, 1970)
On going through the hundred and fifty-four of them, I find forty-nine which seem to me excellent throughout, a good number of the rest have one or two memorable lines, but there are also several which I can only read out of a sense of duty. For the inferior ones we have no right to condemn Shakespeare unless we are prepared to believe, a belief for which there is no evidence, that he prepared or intended them all to be published...

The sonnets addressed to the Dark Lady are concerned with that most humiliating of all erotic experiences, sexual infatuation —Venus toute entiere a sa proie attachee.

Simple lust is impersonal, that is to say the pursuer regards himself as a person but the object of his pursuit as a thing, to whose personal qualities, if she has any, he is indifferent, and, if he succeeds, he expects to be able to make a safe getaway as soon as he becomes bored. Sometimes, however, he gets trapped. Instead of becoming bored, he becomes sexually obsessed, and the girl, instead of conveniently remaining an object, becomes a real person to him, but a person whom he not only does not love, but actively dislikes.

No other poet, not even Catullus, has described the anguish, self-contempt, and rage produced by this unfortunate condition so well as Shakespeare in some of these sonnets, 141, for example, “In faith I do not love thee with my eyes,” or 151, “Love is too young to know what conscience is.”
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew York Review of Books, W. H. Auden

» Add other authors (154 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alden, Raymond MacdonaldEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Angelo, ValentiIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Appelbaum, StanleyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auden, W. H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auld, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ballou, Robert OlesonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Booth, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooke, C. F. TuckerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bush, DouglasEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campbell, AliCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duncan-Jones, KatherineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edmondson, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gollancz, IsraelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harbage, AlfredEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollander, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerrigan, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mosher, Thomas B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mowat, Barbara A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orgel, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Penney, IanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reed, Edward BlissEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rolfe, William J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rollins, Hyder EdwardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seymour-Smith, MartinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simonsuuri, KirstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ström, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verstegen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, John DoverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, Louis B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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T. T.
First words
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decrease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work contains all the 154 sonnets and no other fiction from Shakespeare. Please do not combine with selections of poems or work that contain plays or other poems.

Please do not combine Sonnets (No Fear Shakespeare) with Sonnets.
This is the Shakespeare Bookshop edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets, written by Shakespeare and edited by Paul Edmondson. It should not be combined with Edmondson's critical study which is also entitled Shakespeare's Sonnets.
Publisher's editors
Original language
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
Fiction. Poetry. HTML:

The Sonnets compiles 154 Sonnets written by Shakespeare on all manner of themes from love and fidelity to politics and lineage. Many of the sonnets - in particular the first 17, commonly called the procreation sonnets - were commissioned, a fact which calls a simple, romantic reading into question.


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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714537, 014600373X, 0141045388

Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300085060, 0300024959


An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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