Review: Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Posted 23 April, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Shakespeare’s Sonnets
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: eBook; my copy

William Shakespeare’s sonnets are a beautiful expression of a range of human emotions – from love to grief, anger, jealousy and lust. Including the instantly recognisable ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ as well as a range of other equally moving works, this compilation brings together the complete collection of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

April is National Poetry month and I thought this was a good time to read Shakespeare’s sonnets in its entirety 🙂 This book is part of the William Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.

Shakespeare wrote quite an impressive and interesting collection of sonnets. Most of them talk about love but they also touch on themes of time, age, the self and one’s accomplishments. Sometimes the age of the prose can be seen in some of the sonnets, but for the most part they are accessible to the modern reader and very beautiful to read.

I’m not sure what else I want to add here, but here are a few sonnets that especially caught my attention:

Sonnet XVII

Who will believe my verse 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 metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.

I like this sonnet because of the value it reveals of the word, and how what is written can endure long after you’re gone.

Sonnet XIX

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet’st,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O! carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

Again, the immortality of a loved one through what is written…the last two lines especially caught my attention.

Sonnet XXIX

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

You can feel Shakespeare’s frustration and sorrow (and maybe some spite/bitterness?) through this sonnet.

There are some sonnets that are popular and repeated often from his collection but I’m glad to have finally read them all 🙂 Definitely worth checking out if you’re starting out with Shakespeare’s works or are looking into classic poetry.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

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