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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
Photo: Shakespeare/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
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.

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Sonnet 130 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
Photo: Shakespeare/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 4.0
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.
Sonnet 29 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
Photo: Shakespeare/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 4.0
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. see more on Sonnet 29
Sonnet 116 is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best of William Shakespeare's Sonnets
Photo: Shakespeare/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 4.0
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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