Recommended Reading

While the full sequence of sonnets is rewarding to read, there are particular sonnets that stand out and best demonstrate the items we’ve discussed in this guide. The following sonnets represent our favorite recommendations, and each of them is complete with further analysis and annotations:

  • Sonnet 5, in which the speaker meditates on the Fair Youth’s beauty, which he seeks to distill, like summer’s roses, against the advance of time.

  • Sonnet 18, in which the speaker famously compares the Fair Youth to a summer’s day, finding his beloved preferable and less fleeting.

  • Sonnet 19, in which the speaker rages against “Devouring time” and asks that his Fair Youth be spared.

  • Sonnet 29, in which the speaker finds himself in a state of emotional emptiness before recalling the fullness of his love for the youth.

  • Sonnet 55, in which the speaker claims that only poetry can preserve the memory of his beloved youth against the destruction of war and time.

  • Sonnet 60, in which the speaker describes humanity’s frailty against the ceaseless cycles of nature and passing time.

  • Sonnet 73, in which the speaker laments his own aging condition and hopes that the youth will love him all the more because he is close to death.

  • Sonnet 94, in which the speaker warns the fair youth of the great power and equally great responsibility given to those with such extraordinary beauty.

  • Sonnet 106, in which the speaker finds that the love poetry of the past is worthless because it does not make the beloved Fair Youth its subject.

  • Sonnet 116, in which the speaker describes an ideal form of love, saying that lovers are constant and nonjudgmental in their affections.

  • Sonnet 129, in which the speaker shamefully reflects on a lustful encounter with the Dark Lady.

  • Sonnet 130, in which the speaker claims that while his Dark Lady is ugly, she is more real than all other women featured in the sonnet tradition.

Works Consulted

Duncan-Jones, Katherine. Shakespeare's Sonnets: Revised. London: Bloomsbury Pub., 2012.

Booth, Stephen. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.