The Sonnets were published under conditions that have become unclear to history. Although the works were written by Shakespeare, it is not known if the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, used an authorized manuscript from him, or an unauthorized copy. Also, there is a mysterious dedication at the beginning of the text wherein a certain "Mr. W.H." is described as "the onlie begetter" of the poems by the publisher Thomas Thorpe, but it is not known who this man was. The dedication refers to the poet as "Ever-Living", a phrase which has helped fuel the Shakespearean authorship debate due to its use as an epithet for the deceased (Shakespeare himself used the phrase in this way in Henry VI, part 1 (IV, iii, 51-2) describing the dead Henry V as “[t]hat ever-living man of memory”). Authorship proponents believe this phrase indicates that the real author of the sonnets was dead by 1609, whereas Shakespeare of Stratford lived until 1616. Adding further to the authorship debate, Shakespeare's name is hyphenated on the title page and on the top of every other page in the book.
The first 17 sonnets are written to a young man, urging him to marry and have children, thereby passing down his beauty to the next generation. These are called the procreation sonnets. Most of them, however, 18-126, are addressed to a young man expressing the poet's love for him. Sonnets 127-152 are written to the poet's mistress expressing his strong love for her. The final two sonnets, 153-154, are allegorical. The... [continues]
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