The Sonnets Characters

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The Sonnets Summary & Study Guide Description

The Sonnets Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Sonnets by William Shakespeare.

Shakespeareappears in All poems

There are no characters identifiable by name in these sonnets, except in a couple of instances noted below where Shakespeare juxtaposes his own name, "Will," with the use of "will," as a pun on willpower.

Roseappears in Sonnet 109

The only instance of a personal name, other than Will, is Rose who appears in the last line of Sonnet 109. Shakespeare says Rose is everything in the universe that matters to him. The reader can probably assume this is the name of his female lover.

Heartappears in Many poems

Since these are poems of love, the heart motif almost assumes the role of a character. Not only his own heart, but also those of his lover(s) are major driving forces in many of the sonnets. Sonnet 24: "Mine eye hath played the painter and hath steeled/Thy beauty's form in table of my heart...Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art/They draw but what they see, know not the heart."

Eyeappears in Many poems

Shakespeare uses "eye" to mean vision, which can often be at odds with reality when one is in love, but also to mean perception. Sometimes he plays the two different meanings off against each other, as in Sonnet 69: "Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view/Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend/By seeing farther than the eye hath shown/They look into the beauty of thy mind/And that in guess they measure by thy deeds; Then, churls, their thoughts, although their eyes were kind/To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds."

Beautyappears in Many poems

Beauty, whether masculine or feminine, plays a large role in the sonnets. Shakespeare praises his beloved for her beauty, says the world doesn't appreciate her inner beauty, but cautions that her exterior beauty will fade and therefore she should have his child.

Cupidappears in Sonnet 153

Cupid, the god of love, comes to the fore in this sonnet as Shakespeare briefly recites the story of Cupid sleeping by a fire as Diana, goddess of the hunt, who took a burning stick and plunged it into a cold mountain lake that grew hot—a bath to heal the sick.

Imperfectionappears in Several poems

In several instances, Shakespeare points an accusing finger at his lover and berates her for some defect of character—such as infidelity—only to point the finger back at himself and admit that he has the same defect.

Museappears in Sonnets 38, 78, 85, 100, 101, 103

As a poet, Shakespeare has an easy scapegoat when he feels the need to write a sonnet to his beloved but is not pleased with the result: he blames it on his muse, who he says has been taking an unauthorized vacation from his mind.

Timeappears in Many poems

Time is present in these poems as an immutable force, one that sweeps aside everything and everybody in a sort of mindless march to oblivion. Frequently, Shakespeare alludes to time as an the enemy of man. More often, he uses time as an element to lend poignancy to his lines.

Lossappears in Sonnet 30 and others

In some of his more somber moods, Shakespeare reflects on loss—the loss of youthful beauty, health, and ultimately life itself. In Sonnet 30 where he lists his losses, Shakespeare concludes by telling his love that contemplation of her restores his losses and removes his sorrows.

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