The top ten greatest sonnets by William Shakespeare
Previously, we’ve analysed a good number of Shakespeare’s sonnets here at Interesting Literature, offering a brief summary and analysis of the sonnet in question and exploring its most significant points of interest. But we gave up analysing every single sonnet by the time we got to around a third of the way in. Not every Shakespeare sonnet is a classic, simply because it was written by the Bard. Below, we’ve chosen ten of the very best Shakespeare sonnets.
Sonnet 18 (‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’). This is where Shakespeare’s Sonnets start to get interesting, after the opening sequence of 17 ‘Procreation Sonnets’. Boasting one of the most famous opening lines in all of English verse, Sonnet 18 shows that Shakespeare is already sure that his poetry will guarantee the young man his immortality after all. Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on Shakespeare’s 130th sonnet
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 (‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’) has to be one of the top five most famous poems from the sequence of 154 sonnets, and it divides critical opinion. Is this poem a touching paean to inner beauty (opposed to superficiality) or is it misogynist trash? The jury is still out, as we’ll see. Anyway, before we proceed to our analysis of this divisive poem, here is Sonnet 130.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on Shakespeare’s 129th sonnet
When we reach no. 129 in Shakespeare’s Sonnets (‘The expense of spirit in a waste of shame’), we come across a rarity: two classic sonnets one after the other (we’ll come to Sonnet 130 next week). This first one is famous for its analysis of the psyche (particularly the male psyche) after sexual gratification has been achieved. What explains the feeling of sadness, and even self-loathing, which often ensues? Before we take Sonnet 129 in hand and proceed to analyse it, here’s a reminder of the poem.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action: and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind a dream. Read the rest of this entry