William Shakespeare's Sonnets

William Shakespeare is known not only for his plays but also for the beautiful poetry he wrote. Many of his sonnets are considered masterpieces in literature. Read through to get an account of the most popular sonnets by William Shakespeare.
| Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Sonnets are basically compositions that consist of fourteen lines. These sonnets are traditionally created in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is where the accents fall on every second or alternate syllable. Sonnets were initially created in Italy and eventually introduced in England particularly during the Tudor period. Sir Thomas Wyatt was considered responsible for introduction of sonnets to the English. William Shakespeare’s Sonnets include 154 short poems that are composed as sonnets. Their first publication was done in 1609 and these were published along with a poem titled "A Lover’s Complaint.". Based on the style of some of the sonnets it has now been established that some of these sonnets were written much before the actual date of their publication. Even then scholars have not been able to pin point the exact date when these sonnets were composed. Some of these sonnets might have been composed during a certain period since this can be attributed to the common style that some of these sonnets display.

Popular Sonnets by William Shakespeare
  • Sonnet 18 – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day"

  • Sonnet 029 – When in disgrace with fortune

  • Sonnet 116 – Let me not to the marriage of true minds

  • Sonnet 126 – O thou my lovely boy

  • Sonnet 130 – My Mistress’ eyes
Thomas Thorpe was responsible for publishing William Shakespeare’s Sonnets in 1609. The biggest controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s Sonnets is that there have been some doubts expressed about the genuine authorship of these works of art. Some research also indicates that these sonnets were actually meant as a form of private communication between Shakespeare and his friends and perhaps that is why Shakespeare himself was rather averse to their publication. In 1640 the second edition of the sonnets was published.

Themes of the Sonnets

The themes of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets include stories of a handsome young man, a rival poet and a dark (haired) lady that they both have affection for. These deal with such aspects as beauty, love, mortality and politics. Sonnets 1 to 126 revolve around a young man. Sonnets 127 to 152 are about the lady while Sonnets 153 and 154 are adaptations of two Greek poems. The first seventeen of these sonnets are addressed to a young boy imploring him to get married so that he can have children and thereby pass down his beauty. These sonnets are therefore also called as procreation sonnets. Many of these sonnets addressed to the young boy express the love of the poet for the young boy. The sonnets addressed to the lady talk about the love and affection of the poet for the lady. The other sonnets talks about morality and other issues affecting the world.

The rhyme scheme in the sonnets is in the form of abab cdcd efef gg and therefore this style of composition is now called as Shakespearean sonnet. The consistency of composition is a hallmark of this creation. Sonnets 126, 99 and 145 have slight deviations with Sonnet 99 having fifteen lines instead of the standard 14 lines composition. Likewise Sonnet 145 has an iambic tetrameter composition instead of pentameter and Sonnet 126 has six couplets. William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are a masterpiece that truly reflects the genius of this writer. 
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