NCPA May 15, 2024

sonnetWilliam Shakespeare’s corpus of 154 “Sonnets” was first published today in 1609 as a quarto (reportedly sold for one shilling), of which 13 copies have survived. Reproductions abound, of course, but whether you’re looking at an original at the Folger Library in Washington, D.C, or you’re reading a paperback copy in eighth grade English class, the universal themes of time, jealousy, mortality, and beauty ring true across all formats. You might remember that the Immortal Bard wrote his stanzas as four lines followed by a couplet, all composed in iambic pentameter (invented by Chaucer), offering each line a regular rhythm. You might also remember his most famous “Sonnet 18,” which begins, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate,” or maybe “Sonnet 116,” which begins, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments; love is not love.” There’s also “Sonnet 27,” a refrain for the end of most days of the week if you’re on your feet behind the bench, “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed / The dear repose for limbs with travel tired.”