Read Shakespeare’s sonnets below, along with a modern English interpretation. These are intended to offer an easy read-through to aid understanding of the sonnets. There’s no attempt to ‘translate’ Shakespeare’s sonnets word for word, as Shakespeare’s poetry is intense and heavily layered with multiple meanings and use of rhyme, metre, and metaphors. These Shakespeare sonnet translations  offer only the argument of each sonnet and a general impression of the main sense, whilst following each line and image as a modern version. Take your pick from the list of Shakespeare sonnets below (or learn how to write a sonnet of your own!):


Download ebook of all 154 Shakespeare sonnets in modern English >>

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What’s your take on the Shakespeare sonnets listed above? Let us know by joining in the conversation in the comments section below.

13 replies
  1. jrastin
    jrastin says:

    I have translated 40 sonnets into Farsi, and I am looking for a way to get them published in a book. If can help me please inform me. thanks

    Reply
  2. Adithya
    Adithya says:

    shakespeare is my favorite and especially his sonnet 18 he handle words with such delicacy and he express his feelings with simplicity and beauty and thats what makes him a great poet.

    Reply
  3. Daniel Klayton
    Daniel Klayton says:

    Ahh, I love the sonnets! I think I’m getting ready for a new reading of them… I like to go back and rediscover them every once in awhile :)

    I love the snarkiness of sonnet 11: “Nature meant for ugly people to die without having kids, because they’re so dang ugly”… oh Shakespeare….

    I wrote a piece about the sonnet as a form – what it can accomplish, and what the structure makes it particularly attuned to… if you love Shakespeare’s sonnets, check it out, methinks you’ll enjoy it :)

    http://www.waistcoatandwatch.com/2012/07/05/the-sonnet/

    Reply
      • Daniel Klayton
        Daniel Klayton says:

        Mm, well that certainly would be one way of reading it.

        Frankly though, I think we’re a bit too ready to remember Shakespeare as the cosmically-super-serious-brilliant voice of Hamlet, and not as the hilariously-snarky-and-inappropriate voice of Falstaff. Especially in his sonnets, in which I think he’s far more often intending to be ironic and funny than I think he’s given credit for.

        If he’s being serious in Sonnet 11 when he says certain people should rightly “barrenly perish,” then he’s sort of being a jerk – whether he’s talking about physically unattractive people, rude people, mean people, dumb people – whomever.

        If he’s being serious, then the sonnet is elitist and eugenist. If he’s being snarky and funny, then the sonnet is snarky and funny.

        I’ll take the latter ;)

        Reply
    • megan
      megan says:

      sonnet 18 is beautiful now that i understand it fully in modern english. I have put it into my homework about shakespeare sonnets :)

      Reply

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