Shakespeare Sonnets

Shakespeare sonnets


This page provides you with a clear understanding of Shakespeare Sonnets. A comprehensive list of 154 sonnets written by Shakespeare is given here. You will find analysis and meaning of each of Shakespeare sonnets for better understanding. But before diving deep into it, let us first understand, “What is a Sonnet” and what are the different type of Sonnets.

What Is A Sonnet: An Analysis Of Shakespeare Sonnets And Petrarchan Sonnets

A sonnet is a poem written in a particular format. The typical sonnet has 14 lines and originated in Italy. Although several poets abided by the 14 line format in various poems the credit for the first style of sonnet goes to Italian poet Franseco Petrarch of the 14th century. Later in the 15 century, William Shakespeare created his own style of Shakespeare Sonnets creating for the English language what would be regarded as the two major styles of sonnets. The Shakespeare sonnets and the Petrarchan sonnets.

The Petrarchan sonnet

While Shakespearean sonnets were simpler in the pattern, The Petrarchan sonnet was complex. It was used extensively by renaissance poetry and served as a model for lyrical poetry. It was characterized by two parts called:

1. octave (8 lines)

2. Sestet (6 lines).

The octave was a reflection and introduction of a particular theme while the sestet presented a change of thought or solution to a dilemma presented in the octave.

The rhyme scheme of a Petrarchan sonnet

The rhyme scheme of a sonnet is the pattern of the rhyming sound of the last word in each line. Thus if the last word of the first line is denoted by “ A “and the second “B”, then the pattern of an octave would be ABBA, ABBA.


When I consider how my light is spent (A) Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, (B) And that one talent which is death to hide, (B) Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent (A)

Similarly, the sestet denoted by C, D, and E would rhyme in a pattern described as CDE, CDE. In certain cases it may also be CDC CDC


thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart; – C

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: – D

So didst thou travel on life’s common way, – E

The lines above have been taken from the famous poem “On His Blindness” Written by the blind poet John Milton in 1674.

Shakespeare sonnet

Shakespeare sonnets were actually developed by the Earl of Surrey but because of Shakespeare’s extensive use of the style, it became known as Shakespeare sonnets. There are about 154 Shakespeare sonnets attributed to the bard who many say were addressed to a young lord living in Shakespeare’s time and presumably his dear friend.

A Shakespeare sonnet also consisted of 14 lines further divided into four parts. The first three parts consisted of four lines each and called a quatrain. The last part consisted of two lines and was called a couplet. The rhyme scheme of a quatrain was divided according to the individual quatrains

1st quatrain-ABAB


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? A

Thou art more lovely and more temperate. B

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, A

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date. B

2nd quatrain CDCD


Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, C

And often is his gold complexion dimmed; D

And every fair from fair sometime declines, C

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed; D

3rd quatrain-EFEF

But thy eternal summer shall not fade, E

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st, F

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade, E

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st. F



So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, G

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. G

The above example is from Shakespeare sonnets, No 18 which was considered the most beautiful of English sonnets and part of Shakespeare’s procreation sonnets.

Shakespeare Sonnet 1, From fairest creatures we desire increase

Shakespeare sonnet 1

In Sonnet 1 Shakespeare compares life to beauty saying how man desires to increase this beauty by having children. He says some men are too self-absorbed in their own lives and deprive the continuation of life. This makes man his own enemy. He implores such men to procreate and continue life’s legacy by having children instead of dying alone leaving nothing on Earth.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 2, When forty winters shall besiege thy brow

In Sonnet 2 Shakespeare continues the theme of procreation explaining to man the importance and beauty of his life and how he shouldn’t waste it. He says after forty, man will wither into old age and the only thing that can sustain him is a child and heir in whom his name will live on.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 3, Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest

In Sonnet 3 Shakespeare urges man not to waste the beauty of life by being childless. He says a child immortalizes a man’s name. Just like man is a mirror for his own mother to remind her of her youth, so will man see his younger days again through the eyes of his own child. He urges man not to die single.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 4, Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend

Shakespeare sonnet 4

Sonnet 4 continues Shakespeare pleas and urging to man to procreate and have children instead of wasting his life on himself by being alone. He scolds men for not using the gift of procreation that nature has provided. According to Shakespeare, a childless man will only have the beauty of his name buried with him in death and forgotten.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 5, Those hours that with gentle work did frame

shakespeare sonnet 5

In Sonnet 5 Shakespeare compares the passage of life to the seasons saying that society admires a man in his youth but will forget him when he withers with age. Similarly like summer proceeds to dull winter, youth ages to a time when man is old and barren. However, the essence of man remains and that can be carried on with children.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 6, Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface

shakespeare sonnet 6

Sonnet 6 is a continuation of sonnet 5 where Shakespeare explains to man not to grow old without continuing his legacy. He urges man to marry saying that woman too is always willing to be a wife and bear children. He urges man not to be selfish and let the beauty of his life end as a lonely corpse.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 7, Lo, in the orient when the gracious light.

shakespeare sonnet 7

In sonnet 7, Shakespeare uses the rising and setting of the sun as a metaphor for life and the stages of youth and old age. He compares the midday sun to the middle age where man retains a part of his youthfulness but in old age, he will also disappear like the setting sun dying a lonely man unless starts a family.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 8, Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly

Shakespeare sonnet 8

In sonnet 8 Shakespeare compares the happiness of a family to the harmony of music. He describes how families with individual members create happiness like the strings of a harp that play a single tune. He also reminds man that the happiness of a family will make him change his mind of living single.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 9, Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye

shakespeare sonnet 9

Sonnet 9 continues with scolding and advising man about the need to procreate and have children. Shakespeare says that if man is afraid of leaving behind a widow, he shouldn’t be, because he will always live on in his children’s eyes. Shakespeare considers a single man without children selfish and to die childless is a shameful thing.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 10, For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any

shakespeare sonnet 10

Sonnet 10 is a direct continuation of sonnet 9 where Shakespeare accuses a youth of harboring hate within himself to the point of denying himself a family and children. He asks the youth to change out of love for him the poet and bear children who will carry on his memory.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 11, As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st

Shakespeare sonnet 11

In Sonnet 11, Shakespeare describes to man the importance of procreation and how it is stupid not to get children those results in a meaningless and wasteful life. He emphasizes on how nature has given man its biggest gift and that is the ability to reproduce. Man should be grateful by showing his appreciation and multiplying.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 12, When I do count the clock that tells the time

Shakespeare sonnet 12

Sonnet 12 is among Shakespeare’s most popular sonnets where he addresses a young lord saying that the reality of ageing proves how the beauty of life cannot escape the hands of time where everything eventually dies. The only way to escape time is to ensure ones name is carried on by having children.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 13, O that you were yourself! But, love, you are

Shakespeare sonnet 13

Sonnet 13 is a continuation of sonnet 12 where Shakespeare reflects on the theme of death explaining that life is just a short lease. Only by producing children can a man protect himself and his name from being destroyed permanently. It is the first sonnet where he addresses his subject as “you” and says that it is man’s responsibility to produce children.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 14, Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck

Shakespeare sonnet 14

Sonnet 14 continues the theme of procreation from a different perspective. Shakespeare addresses a youth saying although he cannot predict the future by conventional means; he can easily see the truth and beauty in the eyes of the youth. If the youth does not produce children to transfer these qualities to, then the only truth is the eternal death of his name.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 15, When I consider every thing that grows

Shakespeare Sonnet 15

In Sonnet 15 Shakespeare speaks about how a youth like all living things has a short lifespan and that the beauty of youth may be vibrant but ultimately old age and time catches up leading to death. However he the poet has the power to cheat time by immortalizing the youth’s name through his poetry.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 16, But wherefore do not you a mightier way

Shakespeare sonnet 16

Sonnet 16 takes its cue and continuation from sonnet 15 where Shakespeare indulges in the theme of procreation. He tells his subject, the youth that by he can live on in the eyes of his children and that reality is better than being remembered in poetry or a painting.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 17, Who will believe my verse in time to come

Shakespeare Sonnets

In Sonnet 17, Shakespeare continues addressing the youth saying that his poetry does not possess the right words to describe the youth’s beauty and in the future, it will be regarded as false because no one would believe such a person could exist. Only if the youth has children can he hope to live own in his descendants and poetry too.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 18, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Shakespeare Sonnet 18 Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Sonnet 18 is the best loved and most famous of all Shakespearean sonnets that glorifies the love he feels for the addressee or subject whose gender is not accurately known. It is considered the ultimate love poem where the poet compares the subject to the season of summer as a time of beauty. Just as nature can change the seasons in the same way man also ages from youth to old age and death. But he as a poet will not allow the person’s beauty and name to die saying that his poetry describing his beauty will make the person live on forever.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 19, Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws

Shakespeare sonnet 19

In Sonnet 19 Shakespeare uses animal imagery to explain how animals and natural things age and die with time. However, he requests time not to do the same with his lover but then challenges time that he cannot Age his lover as his poetry will immortalize his youth forever.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 20, A woman’s face, with nature’s own hand painted

Shakespeare sonnets

In Sonnet 20, Shakespeare clearly mixes gender stereotypes comparing his subject, the subject fair youth to that of a naturally beautiful woman. He praises all his qualities but regrets that the youth was created a man which deprived the poet of a relationship with him. He ends by saying he will cherish the youths love on an emotional level while women can enjoy the youth on a physical level.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 21, So is it not with me as with that muse

shakespeare sonnets 21

In sonnet 21, Shakespeare describes through various similes the beauty of his muse who is also his love comparing her to everything beautiful. He compares her beauty to rare objects on earth and feels that it isn’t worth discussing his muse with men who prefer believing gossip as he isn’t exactly a salesman to sell his love.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 22, My glass shall not persuade me I am old

Shakespeare sonnet 22

In sonnet 22, Shakespeare deals with the equality of love between himself and the fair youth. He says that this love makes himself feel young since both their love resides in each other’s hearts and that he will love the youth till his death and that the youth’s heart will remain with him even in death.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 23, As an unperfect actor on the stage

Shakespeare sonnet 23

In sonnet 23, Shakespeare deals with the theme of imperfection and inability to express his love for the youth simply because of the overwhelming power of love within himself. His lack of confidence that the love will be returned makes him tongue-tied. He then pleads the youth not to bother with his words but try to read his actions and his verse that speak more about his genuine love.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 24, Mine eye hath played the painter and hath steeled

Shakespeare Sonnet 24

Regarded as one of the toughest sonnets to translate, Shakespeare’s play with words is complicated in trying to explain that the youth and the poet shares each other’s love and thus see his love through one another’s eyes which are like windows to each other’s hearts. However, in the end, he expresses a bit of doubt by saying his eyes may see the physical beauty of the youth but he cannot guess his true feelings.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 25, Let those who are in favor with their stars

Shakespeare Sonnet 25

Sonnet 25 Shakespeare describes that he does not long for public titles and honor because he feels society is hypercritical and as long as you are doing well you are recognized but once you fail you are forgotten. He is happier to remain in his lover’s heart where he cannot be removed.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 26, Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage

Shakespeare sonnet 26

Shakespeare says that he is totally devoted to the youth calling him the poet’s lord. He says that his sense of duty is so great that he lacks the right words to express it. He hopes life will favor him to get lucky enough for the youth to recognize his worth but till that happens he will hide from the youth for fear of being tested.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 27, Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed

Shakespeare sonnet 27

In sonnet 27, Shakespeare says that he is constantly thinking about his love where during the day he physically aches for him and looks for him. At night when he rests his physical body, he cannot sleep because his mind is restless with thoughts about his love. In this way, he gets no peace during day and night.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 28, How can I then return in happy plight

Shakespeare sonnet 28

Continuing from Sonnet no 27, Shakespeare says that he is plagued day and night by thoughts of his love. As a result, his tireless days and worrisome night is draining him physically and emotionally as he is constantly thinking of his love and because of this the day and night are unbearably long.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 29, When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes

Shakespeare Sonnet 29

In Sonnet 29, the poet in depression wallows in self-pity cursing himself for his misfortune and disgrace. He envies the fortunes and skills of others which depresses him further. But in his depression, the thoughts of his love, improve his mood making him feel emotionally uplifted. He compares such thoughts to emotional riches saying he wouldn’t exchange them for material wealth or the place of a king.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 30 Analysis, When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

In sonnet 30, the poet is a depressed state and begins to recollect his sad memories. He asks if he can grieve for all those moments in life when he suffered loss and misfortunate as well as loss of love. But in spite of the sadness that pains him again like fresh wounds, all he has to do is think of his friends and those happy thoughts make his sorrows disappear.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 31, Thy bosom is endearèd with all hearts

In a continuation of sonnet no 30, Shakespeare tells his friend that he sees in him all his past lovers whom he thought to be dead and buried. He compares his friend’s heart to a grave of memories which contains everything he knew about love including the people who loved him. He then says that he now enjoys all of this love from his friend’s heart and his friend too has his love in return.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 32 Analysis, If thou survive my well-contented day

In Sonnet 32, Shakespeare tells his friend that if he lives longer than the poet, he should not compare his poetry with the skill of modern verse written by poets far better than him. He feels that if his friend’s inspiration had been combined with modern day skills, he would have produced better sonnets but since he is dead and cannot do anything, his friend should read his poetry for the love rather than skill”

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 33, Full many a glorious morning have I seen

In sonnet 33, Shakespeare displays mixed emotions where the theme is changed in comparison to previous sonnets of praise to his friend the fair lord of his sonnets. Now he uses the imagery of a sun covered by clouds to describe the relationship where his friend was once beautiful but is now overshadowed by ugliness and disgrace. But in the end, he has a change of heart saying that he never stopped loving the friend and that this could be just a temporary phase.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 34, Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day


Sonnet 34 is a continuation of the theme of sonnet 33 where he accuses the fair lord or his friend of causing him pain and that even though he repents it isn’t enough to take away the pain. But his love is strong and when he sees tears in his friend’s eyes, he feels he must forgive him.

Sonnet Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 35, No more be grieved at that which thou hast done.


In sonnet 35, Shakespeare changes his theme of condemnation in sonnet 33 and 34 to a theme of reconciliation. He now experiences mixed emotions and feels sorry for his friend comparing his mistakes against the poet as no more than human nature and justifying the fact that all men aren’t perfect. In saying so he also criticizes himself for justifying his friend’s actions in spite of being the victim himself.

Sonnet Analysis