Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

This essay will delve into the rich tapestry of themes and literary techniques present in Shakespeare’s sonnets. It will explore the intricacies of his language, the depth of emotion, and the frequent exploration of themes such as love, beauty, time, and mortality. Each sonnet’s structure, rhyme scheme, and metrical pattern will be analyzed to understand how Shakespeare conveyed profound ideas through his poetic form. Additionally, the essay will discuss the historical context of these sonnets and their significance in the canon of English literature, emphasizing their enduring impact on poetry and how they continue to resonate with modern audiences. At PapersOwl, you’ll also come across free essay samples that pertain to Analysis.

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William Shakespeare’s Sonnets is a collection of 154 poems that are delicate yet powerful in their ever-intimate tone. It is unknown whether Shakespeare wrote the collection of sonnets in an auto-biographical form or if they are merely fiction. Regardless of the intention, it cannot be denied that the collection of sonnets takes on a tone of intimacy that reflects upon a relationship between power and love. Stand alone, each sonnet can be read separately, but are found to be linked thematically.

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However, if you start reading them in order, it becomes apparent that the most beautiful and fulfilling way to experience the sonnets is by reading all 154 in sequence.

It is tough to definitively say one way or another, but regardless if the sonnets are autobiographical or fiction one of the themes is sexuality. You can look to the homoerotic content that spills through much of the collection. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets. 28 are addressed to a woman, the Dark Lady. 126 are addressed to a man, the Fair Youth. While only the Dark Lady poems make explicit reference to a sexual relationship, the Fair Youth poems portray a similar sense of passionate, overwhelming love. 

The sonnets explicitly show his adoration for the young man, and the Procreation poems speak of the Youth’s extreme beauty and urge him to marry and beget children, so his beauty can be passed on. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” is a Fair Youth poem. There is a repeated wish to immortalize the Youth’s beauty in poetry. You could read these sonnets as expressions of friendship, sure, or as an older man wishing to guide and encourage a younger man he cares for, but through historical context it is also entirely acceptable to interpret these as Shakespeare expressing strong romantic feelings towards the Youth. No matter where you sit in the debate it is interesting that Summer’s Day is considered one of the most famous romantic poems of all time and that it is assumed to be about a woman when in actuality it is written to a man.

Poetry in itself is always subjective. No two people can possibly feel every ounce of same emotion when experiencing words others have written. Poetry is there to evoke emotion and create feeling. Shakespeare’s purpose for these sonnets are a mystery, which leaves little room for realistic knowledge of them but opens a world of imagination and interpretation. However, we don’t need to know his intentions. We should accept that the author-character that emerges from the sonnets is not created for our convenience. It is not necessarily William Shakespeare, the man; it is William Shakespeare, the poet. While reading the sonnets, I was overcome with a multilayered experience. It is easy to pick out themes such as power, love, beauty, morality, and sensuality, but actually drowning emotionally into every word is a journey all on its own. Too often we search for the meaning of the writing from the authors perspective. The beauty in Shakespeare’s Sonnets is there is no reason to search for any meaning outside of our own interpretation of how it relates to our self. How beautiful is it to lose yourself in something for nothing more than yourself?

I don’t pretend to know the real, true meaning of any of the sonnets. Great poems are great because of the different interpretative possibilities they offer: they’re expansive rather than constricting. In other words, there is no ‘real meaning’. I’m not certain that any one sonnet is more significant than another. They are all exquisite, ugly, simple, and complex, depending on how they reach you.

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Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnets. (2021, Nov 30). Retrieved from