Sonnets 41-60

Shakespeare s sonnets 41-60

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 41-60

Sonnets 41-60
  • Sonnet 41
    Sonnet 41

    «Those petty wrongs that liberty commits, When I am sometime absent from thy heart».  In order to forgive the youth for his actions, the poet places himself in both the youth’s position and that of the mistress. In the sonnet’s first four lines, the poet…

  • Sonnet 42
    Sonnet 42

    «That thou hast her, it is not all my grief, And yet it may be said I loved her dearly».  Only in this last sonnet concerning the youth and the poet’s mistress does the poet make fully apparent the main reason for his being so…

  • Sonnet 43
    Sonnet 43

    «When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see, For all the day they view things unrespected».  The next sonnet series on absence begins here with Sonnet 43 and continues through Sonnet 58. Throughout this new sequence, different meanings of the same words are…

  • Sonnet 44
    Sonnet 44

    «If the dull substance of my flesh were thought, Injurious distance should not stop my way».  Sonnet 44 and the following one form a continuous theme involving the four basic elements of matter according to Elizabethan science: earth, water, air, and fire. Sonnet 44 Read…

  • Sonnet 45
    Sonnet 45

    «The other two, slight air and purging fire, Are both with thee, wherever I abide».  This sonnet continues and completes the idea of Sonnet 44, but here air and fire — symbolizing the poet’s thoughts and desires, respectively — are linked to the youth because…

  • Sonnet 46
    Sonnet 46

    «Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war How to divide the conquest of thy sight».  The poet alludes to contradictions within himself when he considers his longing for the sight of the youth’s good looks and his need to love and be loved…

  • Sonnet 47
    Sonnet 47

    «Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took, And each doth good turns now unto the other».  In Sonnet 46, conflict between the eyes and heart is the theme. In Sonnet 47, these organs complement one another. Sonnet 47 Read and listen Betwixt mine…

  • Sonnet 48
    Sonnet 48

    «How careful was I, when I took my way, Each trifle under truest bars to thrust».  The youth keeps the poet on edge, and once again we see the poet’s bondage to the relationship. The poet develops a metaphorical contrast between being robbed of physical…

  • Sonnet 49
    Sonnet 49

    «Against that time, if ever that time come, When I shall see thee frown on my defects».  All pride is missing in this sonnet, whose first four lines continue the poet’s fear of the “truth” evoked in the preceding sonnet. Sonnet 49 Read and listen…

  • Sonnet 50
    Sonnet 50

    «How heavy do I journey on the way, When what I seek, my weary travel’s end».  Nothing suggests where the poet is journeying in this and the following sonnets. All that is known is that the poet is on an unnamed journey away from the…

  • Sonnet 51
    Sonnet 51

    «Thus can my love excuse the slow offence Of my dull bearer when from thee I speed».  The companion to the previous sonnet, Sonnet 51 further expands on the theme of traveling. Sonnet 51 Read and listen Thus can my love excuse the slow offence…

  • Sonnet 52
    Sonnet 52

    «So am I as the rich, whose blessed key Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure».  The poet grows more accepting of his separation from the young man, whom he likens to “up-lockèd treasure.”  Sonnet 52 Read and listen So am I as the…

  • Sonnet 53
    Sonnet 53

    «What is your substance, whereof are you made, That millions of strange shadows on you tend?».  A more relaxed poet appears to have forgotten his previous doubts about his relationship with the young man, who is still attractive but whose true self is elusive. Sonnet…

  • Sonnet 54
    Sonnet 54

    «O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!».  The rose image in this sonnet symbolizes immortal truth and devotion, two virtues that the poet associates with the young man. Likening himself to a distiller, the poet, who…

  • Sonnet 55
    Sonnet 55

    «Not marble, nor the gilded monuments Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme».  Sonnet 55, one of Shakespeare’s most famous verses, asserts the immortality of the poet’s sonnets to withstand the forces of decay over time. The sonnet continues this theme from the previous sonnet,…

  • Sonnet 56
    Sonnet 56

    «Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said Thy edge should blunter be than appetite».  Much like in Sonnet 52, the poet accepts that separation can be advantageous in making their love that much sweeter when the youth and the poet resume their relationship.…

  • Sonnet 57
    Sonnet 57

    «Being your slave, what should I do but tend Upon the hours and times of your desire?».  In Sonnet 57, the poet argues that he is not so much the young man’s friend as he is his slave. As a slave, he waits on the…

  • Sonnet 58
    Sonnet 58

    «That god forbid that made me first your slave, I should in thought control your times of pleasure».  As in so many other sonnets, the poet’s annoyance with the young man is expressed ambiguously. We hardly notice that he rebukes the youth in the lines…

  • Sonnet 59
    Sonnet 59

    «If there be nothing new, but that which is Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled».  Sonnet 59 dwells on the paradox that what is new is always expressed in terms of what is already known. The elements of any invention or creative composition…

  • Sonnet 60
    Sonnet 60

    «Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end».  Sonnet 60 is acknowledged as one of Shakespeare’s greatest because it deals with the universal concerns of time and its passing. Sonnet 60 Read and listen Like as…

»»» 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