poems The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets

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Which are the best of Shakespeare's sonnets? This list includes the best of The Bard's 154 sonnets. These are all poems that deal with love, beauty, the passage of time, and mortality. It is likely these touchy subjects that continue to drive our fascination with Shakespeare’s sonnets, as they are still popular today. 

Shakespeare's sonnets almost all follow the same structure. The consist of three quatrains of four line stanza, and a final couplet written in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme Shakespeare used for his sonnets was: abab cdcd efef gg. Though a few sonnets are exceptions to this rule (99, 126, 145) most of the sonnets are strictly "Shakespearean."

The sonnets were first published in 1609 by Thomas thorpe, though it remains unknown as to whether the manuscript Thorpe used was authorized or not.

Vote up the best of William Shakespeare's sonnets below or add your favorite Shakespearean sonnet, if it isn't already on the list.

Shall I compare thee to a summ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Also Ranked

#20 on The Greatest Poems Ever Written

#9 on The Greatest Love Poems Ever Written

see more on Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Sonnet 130 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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Sonnet 130 - My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun


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:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare. see more on Sonnet 130
Sonnet 29 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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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.

Also Ranked

#34 on The Greatest Love Poems Ever Written

see more on Sonnet 29
Sonnet 73 is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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Sonnet 73 - That time of year thou mayst in me behold


That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long. see more on Sonnet 73
Sonnet 104 is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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Sonnet 104 - To me, fair friend, you never can be old


To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey'd,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold,
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty's summer dead. see more on Sonnet 104
Sonnet 116 is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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#12 on The Greatest Love Poems Ever Written

see more on Sonnet 116
Sonnet 30 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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Sonnet 30 - When to the sessions of sweet silent thought


When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end. see more on Sonnet 30
Sonnet 129 is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
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Sonnet 129 - The expense of spirit in a waste of shame


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.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell. see more on Sonnet 129