by William Shakespeare
Read alsoShakespeare's Complete Works
A balanced editorial approach, a highly respected editor, and comprehensive glosses, footnotes, and historical and cultural essays make this the most reader-friendly introduction to Shakespeare available today. The seventh edition of this comprehensive anthology addresses the two key issues confronted by readers approaching Shakespeare…
"Shakespeare's sonnets, or simply The Sonnets, is a collection of poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare that deal with such themes as love, beauty, politics, and mortality. They were probably written over a period of several years. All 154 poems appeared in a 1609 collection, entitled SHAKE-SPEARE's SONNETS, comprising 152 previously unpublished sonnets and two poems, numbers 138 ("When my love swears that she is made of truth") and 144 ("Two loves have I, of comfort and despair"), that had previously been published in a 1599 miscellany entitled The Passionate Pilgrim.
The Sonnets were published under conditions that have become unclear to history. Although the works were written by Shakespeare, it is not known if the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, used an authorized manuscript from him, or an unauthorized copy. Also, there is a mysterious dedication at the beginning of the text wherein a certain "Mr. W.H." is described as "the onlie begetter" of the poems by the publisher Thomas Thorpe, but it is not known who this man was. The dedication refers to the poet as "Ever-Living", a phrase which has helped fuel the Shakespearean authorship debate due to its use as an epithet for the deceased (Shakespeare himself used the phrase in this way in Henry VI, part 1 (IV, iii, 51-2) describing the dead Henry V as "[t]hat ever-living man of memory"). Authorship proponents believe this phrase indicates that the real author of the sonnets was dead by 1609, whereas Shakespeare of Stratford lived until 1616. Adding further to the authorship debate, Shakespeare's name is hyphenated on the title page and on the top of every other page in the book.
The first 17 sonnets are written to a young man, urging him to marry and have children, thereby passing down his beauty to the next generation. These are called the procreation sonnets. Most of them, however, 18-126, are addressed to a young man expressing the poet's love for him.