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Shakespeare's sonnets comprises a collection of 154 poems in the sonnet form by William Shakespeare, published in 1609. Their themes are love, beauty, poetry and the effects of time on all three. They were probably written over a period of several years, early in Shakespeare's literary career.
Almost all are in the verse form afterwards known as Shakespearean sonnet and deal in large part with a beautiful young man (the Fair Lord), a rival poet and a Dark Lady whose identities have been the subject of much debate. Some have suggested that the young man is the same as the "W.H." referred to in the publisher's dedication, possibly William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, a patron of the stage. The rival poet is sometimes identified with Christopher Marlowe or George Chapman. However, no hard evidence that any of the sonnets' characters have real-life counterparts. The narrator himself could even be a fictional device and not a reflection of Shakespeare's feeling.
Shakespeare's repeated declarations of love for the young man are charged with an intense homoerotic sensitivity, full of passion, but also seem to suggest a drawing-back from active homosexuality, most notably in the sexually paradoxical sonnet 20. The romantic language of these sonnets differs from the explictly physical language used in sonnets addressed to the so-called Dark Lady, with whom the poet has a sexual relationship. It is possible to interpret this as a deliberate contrast between ideal Platonic love, and 'dark' carnal lust. However, this depends to a considerable extent on whether we interpret the sonnets as records of real events and feelings, or as literary constructions.
Quotations (With Number of Sonnet)