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Opening page of Shakespeare’s 'Sonnets'

Opening page of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

From William Shakespeare, The poems of William Shakespeare, Hammersmith, Kelmscott Press, 1893

State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, RARES 095 SH15P, pp 126–7

Shakespeare’s love sonnets, like many of his predecessors’ and contemporaries’, drew on the literary style introduced into Europe by Petrarch, and first translated into English by Chaucer.

Shakespeare often directed his lines to a beloved who was male; he used the symbolism of ‘beautie’s rose’ to hint at the feminine nature of his ‘bright eyes’ and ‘fresh ornament’, which provoked adoration in those who saw him and inspired appreciation of a higher form of beauty.

Like some Persian poetry, Shakespeare’s verses extolled the virtues of an ideal relationship between friends and the transformative experience of love.