Love Sonnets of Shakespeare


By William Shakespeare

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Once it blooms, it changes everything. Love is uplifting, enlightening, transforming. In this timeless collection of more than 80 sonnets, William Shakespeare pays tribute to our most beautiful emotion. Read and share them with the one you love.



WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE is the most studied writer in the history of Western civilization, the breadth of his genius so great that twentieth-century poet William Carlos Williams declared, “Shakespeare is the greatest university of all.”

Over a span of twenty years, Shakespeare churned out an impressively whopping thirty-eight plays, 154 love sonnets, and two epic narrative poems. While most people associate him with his plays, it was his sonnets that likely earned him admiration among his contemporaries. Yes, that’s right: In his lifetime, Shakespeare garnered more acclaim for his sonnets than he did for his plays.

In England during the 1590s, writing plays was considered a bit hackish—a way to pay the bills—and not an intellectual pursuit. Writing sonnets was all the rage—and a way to gain literary prestige. These poems weren’t published for the plebeian public, but were written down and shared among the literati—and aristocrats looking for some intellectual cachet by becoming patrons to brilliant but perhaps financially strapped writers. So, while Shakespeare likely wrote nearly all of his love sonnets in the early to mid 1590s, they weren’t officially collected and published until 1609, well after the fad had passed.

W. H. Auden said of Shakespeare’s sonnets: “They are the work of someone whose ear is unerring.” In today’s less poetry-friendly world, appreciation of these sonnets tends, sadly, to be relegated to classrooms, Valentine’s Day, and anniversaries. Which is too bad, because—though they do indeed rhyme—they are far superior to the ditties found in ninety-nine-cent greeting cards. In fact, they cover the whole gamut of love—the good, the bad, the erotic, and the ugly, including love triangles, being dumped, and jealousy.

There is also speculation as to how autobiographical the sonnets are. The truth is that we know so little about Shakespeare’s private life. Of particular interest is the fact that he lived apart from his wife for twenty years. At the height of his fame in the bustle of London, it’s not hard to imagine that he selected a mistress or two (or more) from the bevy of groupies he surely had. Or did he have male lovers? There is no conclusive evidence confirming either of these possibilities. But both are, indeed, possibilities.

The sonnets are generally divided into three different sections. Sonnets 1 through 126 (including the infamous “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” on page 26) are addressed to a friend who appears to be a young, handsome (yes, male) aristocrat. There are several real-life candidates for the addressee, but his true identity (if he did, in fact, exist) has never been confirmed, as well as whether their relationship extended beyond platonic friendship.

Sonnets 127 through 152 (including the oft-quoted “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” on page 154) are chiefly addressed to a mysterious “Dark Lady,” who, again, remains unidentified these 400 years later—if, indeed, she was based on an actual person.

And what of the last two sonnets (153 and 154), you ask? They are considered by most to be one-offs that don’t appear to have much connection to the preceding poems—or to each other.

In this compact tome, we’ve collected 80 of Shakespeare’s most memorable sonnets for your perusal and enjoyment. Careful not to swoon. Actually, go ahead—swoon away to some of the most beautiful and eloquent poems ever composed.

The Sonnets



      we desire increase,

That thereby beauty’s rose

   might never die,

But as the riper should by time


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


Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet

   self too cruel.

Thou that art now the world’s fresh


And only herald to the gaudy spring,

Within thine own bud

   buriest thy content,

And, tender churl, mak’st

   waste in niggarding.

Pity the world, or else this

   glutton be,

To eat the world’s due, by

   the grave and thee.



   bear’st love to any

Who for thyself art so unprovident.

Grant if thou wilt, thou art

   beloved of many,

But that thou none lov’st is

   most evident;

For thou art so possessed with

   murd’rous hate,

That ’gainst thyself thou

   stick’st not to conspire,

Seeking that beauteous roof

   to ruinate,

Which to repair should be thy

   chief desire.

O, change thy thought, that I

   may change my mind.

Shall hate be fairer lodged

   than gentle love?

Be, as thy presence is, gracious

   and kind,

Or to thyself at least

   kind-hearted prove.

Make thee another self for

   love of me,

That beauty still may live in

   thine or thee.



   so fast thou grow’st

In one of thine, from that which

   thou departest;

And that fresh blood which

   youngly thou bestow’st

Thou mayst call thine, when

   thou from youth convertest.

Herein lives wisdom, beauty,

   and increase;

Without this, folly, age, and

   cold decay.

If all were minded so, the

   times should cease,

And threescore year would

   make the world away.

Let those whom Nature hath

   not made for store,

Harsh, featureless, and rude,

   barrenly perish.

Look whom she best

   endowed, she gave thee more;

Which bounteous gift thou

   shouldst in bounty cherish.

She carved thee for her seal,

   and meant thereby

Thou shouldst print more,

   not let that copy die.



   but, love you are

No longer yours than you

   yourself here live;

Against this coming end you

   should prepare,

And your sweet semblance to

   some other give.

So should that beauty which

   you hold in lease

Find no determination, then

   you were

Yourself again after your self’s


When your sweet issue your

   sweet form should bear.

Who lets so fair a house fall

   to decay,

Which husbandry in honor

   might uphold

Against the stormy gusts of

   winter’s day.

And barren rage of

   death’s eternal cold?

O, none but unthrifts! Dear

   my love, you know,

You had a father; let your

   son say so.



   in time to come

If it were filled with your

   most high deserts?

Though yet heaven knows it

   is but as a tomb

Which hides your life and

   shows not half your parts.

If I could write the beauty of

   your eyes,

And in fresh numbers number

   all your graces,

The age to come would say

   “This poet lies,

Such heavenly touches ne’er

   touched earthly faces.”

So should my papers, yellowed

   with their age,

Be scorned, like old men of

   less truth than tongue,

And your true rights be

   termed a poet’s rage

And stretched meter of an

   antique song:

But were some child of yours

   alive that time,

You should live twice, in

   it, and in my rhyme.



   summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and

   more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the

   darling buds of May,


On Sale
Jul 29, 2014
Page Count
176 pages
RP Minis

William Shakespeare

About the Author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrote thirty-seven plays. King Lear and Macbeth are among his finest and most popular. They are, perhaps, the most frequently produced works on the planet.

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