Humanities › Literature A Guide to the Sonnets of William Shakespeare Share Flipboard Email Print Pikreop / CC BY 1.0 Literature Shakespeare Studying Shakespeare's Life and World Tragedies Comedies Sonnets Best Sellers Classic Literature Plays & Drama Poetry Quotations Short Stories Children's Books By Lee Jamieson Theater Expert M.A., Theater Studies, Warwick University B.A., Drama and English, DeMontfort University Lee Jamieson, M.A., is a theater scholar and educator. He previously served as a theater studies lecturer at Stratford-upon Avon College in the United Kingdom. our editorial process Lee Jamieson Updated April 10, 2020 Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, which were collected and published posthumously in 1609. Many critics segment the sonnets into three groups: The Fair Youth Sonnets (Sonnets 1 - 126): The first group of sonnets is addressed to a young man with whom the poet has a deep friendship.The Dark Lady Sonnets (Sonnets 127 - 152): In the second sequence, the poet becomes infatuated with a mysterious woman. Her relationship with the young man is unclear.The Greek Sonnets (Sonnets 153 and 154): The final two sonnets are very different and draw upon the Roman myth of Cupid, to whom the poet has already compared his muses. Other Groupings Other scholars lump the Greek Sonnets with the Dark Lady Sonnets and call out a different cluster (Nos. 78 to 86) as the Rival Poet Sonnets. This approach treats the subjects of the sonnets as characters and invites ongoing questions among scholars about the degree to which the sonnets may or may not have been autobiographical. Controversies Although it's generally accepted that Shakespeare wrote the sonnets, historians question certain aspects of how the sonnets came to print. In 1609, Thomas Thorpe published "Shakes-Peares Sonnets." The book, however, contains a dedication by "T.T." (presumably Thorpe). This confounds scholars as to the identity of whom the book was dedicated to and whether the "Mr. W.H." in the dedication may be the muse for the Fair Youth Sonnets. The dedication in Thorpe's book, if it had been written by the publisher, may imply that Shakespeare himself did not authorize the publication. If this theory is true, it is possible that the 154 sonnets we know today don't constitute the totality of Shakespeare's work.