Sonnets 101-120

Shakespeare’s Sonnets are some of the most fascinating and influential poems written in English. First published in 1609, in a small quarto edition (roughly the size of a modern paperback), almost nothing is known about the poems’ composition. But the Sonnets have been read, recited, reprinted and written about ever since their first appearance.

»»» Sonnets introduction
»»» Sonnets complete list

Sonnets 101-120

Sonnets 101-120
  • Sonnet 101
    Sonnet 101

    «O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends For thy neglect of truth in beauty dyed?».  Continuing his plea to the Muse of poetry, the poet abandons his silence and philosophizes about the nature of truth and beauty. Sonnet 101 Read and listen O truant…

  • Sonnet 102
    Sonnet 102

    «My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming; I love not less, though less the show appear».  To justify not writing verse about the young man, the poet argues that constantly proclaiming love for someone cheapens the genuineness of the emotion. Sonnet 102 Read…

  • Sonnet 103
    Sonnet 103

    «Alack, what poverty my Muse brings forth, That having such a scope to show her pride».  The poet continues to bewail his abandonment by his Muse, although he concedes that his love for the youth is stronger because of the absence: “The argument all bare…

  • Sonnet 104
    Sonnet 104

    «To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eyed».  Sonnet 104 indicates for the first time that the poet and young man’s relationship has gone on for three years. Evoking seasonal imagery from previous sonnets,…

  • Sonnet 105
    Sonnet 105

    «Let not my love be call’d idolatry, Nor my beloved as an idol show».  As if it weren’t already clear, the poet writes that he has only one true love and that his poetry is only for the youth — the identical assertion presented in…

  • Sonnet 106
    Sonnet 106

    «When in the chronicle of wasted time I see descriptions of the fairest wights».  Sonnet 106 is addressed to the young man without reference to any particular event. The poet surveys historical time in order to compare the youth’s beauty to that depicted in art…

  • Sonnet 107
    Sonnet 107

    «Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul Of the wide world dreaming on things to come».  Whereas the previous sonnet compared the past with the present, Sonnet 107 contrasts the present with the future. The poet’s favorite theme of immortality through poetic verse dominates…

  • Sonnet 108
    Sonnet 108

    «What’s in the brain that ink may character Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit?».  Admitting that he risks running out of new ideas and “I must each day say o’er the very same” about the young man, the poet replaces newly imagined…

  • Sonnet 109
    Sonnet 109

    «O, never say that I was false of heart, Though absence seem’d my flame to qualify».  Sonnet 109 begins a sequence of apologetic sonnets using the image of travel as a metaphor for the poet’s reduction of the attention he gives to the young man.…

  • Sonnet 110
    Sonnet 110

    «Alas, ‘tis true I have gone here and there And made myself a motley to the view».  The poet deeply regrets his lapse of attention to the young man and wishes to show his disgust and self-reproach. He lists his faults and expresses resentment at…

  • Sonnet 111
    Sonnet 111

    «O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide, The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds».  Sonnet 111 focuses particularly on the poet’s laments about his misfortunes. He resents that circumstances have forced him to behave as he has because fortune provided so meanly for…

  • Sonnet 112
    Sonnet 112

    «Your love and pity doth the impression fill Which vulgar scandal stamp’d upon my brow».  The first two lines recall the “brand” and the “pity” that the poet discussed in the previous sonnet: “Your love and pity doth the impression fill / Which vulgar scandal…

  • Sonnet 113
    Sonnet 113

    «Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind; And that which governs me to go about».  More from a sense of duty than a meaningful expression of emotion, the poet professes to see the young man in everything while he is away from…

  • Sonnet 114
    Sonnet 114

    «Or whether doth my mind, being crown’d with you, Drink up the monarch’s plague, this flattery?».  Continuing the dichotomy between the eye and the mind, the poet presents two alternative possibilities — indicated by the phrase “Or whether” — for how the eye and mind…

  • Sonnet 115
    Sonnet 115

    «Those lines that I before have writ do lie, Even those that said I could not love you dearer».  The poet now admits that his believing that his love for the youth was as great as it could ever be was wrong: He can love…

  • Sonnet 116
    Sonnet 116

    «Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love».  Despite the confessional tone in this sonnet, there is no direct reference to the youth. The general context, however, makes it clear that the poet’s temporary alienation refers to the…

  • Sonnet 117
    Sonnet 117

    «Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all Wherein I should your great deserts repay».  The poet abruptly returns to the subject of the young man and renews his apology and appeal. Sonnet 117 Read and listen Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all…

  • Sonnet 118
    Sonnet 118

    «Like as, to make our appetites more keen, With eager compounds we our palate urge».  The poet now elaborates on lines 5 and 6 from the previous sonnet: “That I have frequent been with unknown minds / And given to time your own dear-purchased right.”…

  • Sonnet 119
    Sonnet 119

    «What potions have I drunk of Siren tears, Distill’d from limbecks foul as hell within».  Arguing that his actions were impulsive and uncontrollable, the poet sincerely apologizes for betraying the youth. Sonnet 119 Read and listen What potions have I drunk of Siren tears, Distill’d…

  • Sonnet 120
    Sonnet 120

    «That you were once unkind befriends me now, And for that sorrow which I then did feel».  The poet and the youth now are able to appreciate traded injuries, with the poet neglecting the youth for his mistress and the youth committing a vague “trespass.”…

»»» Sonnets introduction

They have inspired many creative works, including music and dance pieces as well as other poems. And they continue to intrigue those of us who watch, read and study Shakespeare’s plays, for the insight they might offer into the mind of the man who wrote our most beloved dramatic works. This piece will explore why the Sonnets are so important to the history of English poetry and why they continue to be enjoyed – and imitated – today.

Part of the reason Shakespeare’s Sonnets speak to us so directly is that they are written with their own afterlife in mind. These are poems designed to commemorate the poet’s beloved for all eternity. In the famous lines of Sonnet 18 Shakespeare suggests that his poem confers immortality: ‘So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee’ (ll. 11.13–14). Long after his lover’s death, Shakespeare’s poem will continue to keep his lover alive. The Sonnets look to their own future, imagining the readers who will come to them hundreds of years after Shakespeare’s death. We continue to read the poems partly because of this sense of contact with Shakespeare as he reaches out into the future, a sense of presence as well as a reminder of his absence (a theme that will return later in this piece).

But we need to be careful about reading the poems autobiographically, or seeing them as a key to the themes of love, jealousy, anger and lust that pervade Shakespeare’s plays. The poetic persona who speaks through the sequence is not Shakespeare himself. While many readers of the poems have traced a love triangle between the ‘poet’ and two figures often called the ‘Young Man’ and the ‘Dark Lady’, the Sonnets themselves resist straightforward narrative. The poems seem to play with the reader in this regard, tempting us with hints of the kind of love story that underpinned other popular poetic sequences of the time, or the plot of a Shakespearean comedy. At the same time, the poems constantly frustrate our attempts to trace the exact moment at which the poet loses – or gains – the affection of his lovers, or to map the precise relationship between the two enigmatic figures that so preoccupy his attentions. It is also significant that one of the lovers is male; Shakespeare’s Sonnets do not give us a predictably heterosexual romance but rather a complex and intricate exploration of gender and sexuality that encourages ambiguity rather than resolution.


1 – 20 21 – 40 41 – 60
61 – 80 81 – 100 101 – 120
121 – 140
141 – 154

»»» Sonnets introduction
»»» Sonnets complete list