Sonnets 81-100

Shakespeare's sonnets 81-100

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
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Sonnets 81-100

Sonnets 81-100
  • Sonnet 81
    Sonnet 81

    «Or I shall live your epitaph to make, Or you survive when I in earth am rotten».  The poet rebounds somewhat in the face of the rival poet’s opposition. Reverting to tried-and-tested themes, he heroically assures the youth that he, unlike the rival poet, can…

  • Sonnet 82
    Sonnet 82

    «I grant thou wert not married to my Muse And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook».  A less subdued poet challenges the rival poet. In contrast to the intellectually fashionable rival, the poet possesses an intuitive, almost spiritual inspiration. Sonnet 82 Read and listen I grant…

  • Sonnet 83
    Sonnet 83

    «I never saw that you did painting need And therefore to your fair no painting set».  Apparently having been reproached by the youth for withdrawing from competition against the rival poet, the poet argues that it is better not to write any poetry than to…

  • Sonnet 84
    Sonnet 84

    «Who is it that says most? which can say more Than this rich praise, that you alone are you?».  The poet offers advice — while criticizing the rival poet — to any writer who wishes to achieve true poetry: Copying and interpreting nature are necessary…

  • Sonnet 85
    Sonnet 85

    «My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still, While comments of your praise, richly compiled».  The poet likens himself to an “unlettered clerk” and finds his Muse “tongue-tied” — the identical phrase the poet used in Sonnet 80 to characterize himself. Sonnet 85 Read and…

  • Sonnet 86
    Sonnet 86

    «Was it the proud full sail of his great verse, Bound for the prize of all too precious you».  Unlike the previous sonnets dealing with the rival poet, this last sonnet in the rival-poet sequence is written in the past tense and indicates that the…

  • Sonnet 87
    Sonnet 87

    «Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing, And like enough thou know’st thy estimate».  Sonnet 87 reads like a conclusion to the sonnet sequence describing the dominance of the rival poet, but in fact is the poet’s farewell to the youth, who has returned…

  • Sonnet 88
    Sonnet 88

    «When thou shalt be disposed to set me light, And place my merit in the eye of scorn».  The poet speaks of his relationship with the young man as though it has been repaired after the rival poet’s departure, but his is a vision of…

  • Sonnet 89
    Sonnet 89

    «Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault, And I will comment upon that offence».  Continuing where the previous sonnet left off, this sonnet reveals an undertone of apprehension in the poet’s references to the young man. Whatever the slanderous accusation the youth will…

  • Sonnet 90
    Sonnet 90

    «Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross».  Already distressed by “the spite of fortune,” the poet urges the youth not to postpone his desertion of him if that is what he intends; do…

  • Sonnet 91
    Sonnet 91

    «Some glory in their birth, some in their skill, Some in their wealth, some in their bodies’ force».  The poet examines his love for the young man in a more relaxed, less urgent vein. He first catalogues different activities that people like to immerse themselves…

  • Sonnet 92
    Sonnet 92

    «But do thy worst to steal thyself away, For term of life thou art assured mine».  Resignedly, the poet is prepared to accept whatever fate brings. Because his life depends on the youth’s love, his life will not survive the loss of that love and…

  • Sonnet 93
    Sonnet 93

    «So shall I live, supposing thou art true, Like a deceived husband; so love’s face».  In contrast to the concluding couplet in the previous sonnet, in which the poet questions the young man’s moral character, now the poet surmises that the youth may be inconstant…

  • Sonnet 94
    Sonnet 94

    «They that have power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show».  On the surface at least, Sonnet 94 continues the theme from the previous sonnet, which contrasts virtue with appearance. Although the sonnet offers a warm…

  • Sonnet 95
    Sonnet 95

    «How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose».  Employing a paternal attitude, the poet continues his lecture on how deceiving appearances can be. In the first quatrain, he constructs a simile in which the young man…

  • Sonnet 96
    Sonnet 96

    «Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness; Some say thy grace is youth and gentle sport».  Still using the paternal tone, the poet observes that the young man’s vices are a subject of public gossip. The contrast between the youth’s beauty and his vicious…

  • Sonnet 97
    Sonnet 97

    «How like a winter hath my absence been From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!».  The poet begins a new sequence of sonnets, written in his absence from the youth during the summer and autumn months, although the first image in Sonnet 97 is…

  • Sonnet 98
    Sonnet 98

    «From you have I been absent in the spring, When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim».  The theme of absence continues with the youth away. The poet first describes April in a buoyant tone, and says that even “heavy Saturn,” which during the Elizabethan…

  • Sonnet 99
    Sonnet 99

    «The forward violet thus did I chide: Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells».  Sonnet 99 is an in-depth explanation of how the natural objects from lines 11 and 12 in the previous sonnet pale in comparison to the young man’s beauty:…

  • Sonnet 100
    Sonnet 100

    «Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget’st so long To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?».  Sonnet 100 marks a change in the poet’s thinking from previous sonnets, in which the simplicity of his poetry was expected to win favor against rivals,…

»»» 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