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Lee Jamieson

How Many Sonnets Did Shakespeare Write?

By June 1, 2010

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A simple question with a startling answer ... Q: How many Shakespeare sonnets are there? A: Just the right amount to match the maximum number of syllables in a sonnet.

I've just been flicking through Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal and found this curious little fact. Here's the maths ...

  • Shakespeare's sonnets are written in iambic pentameter = 10 syllables per line
  • It is possible to use a feminine ending on each line = 11 syllables per line
  • The sonnet form has 14 lines

So, the maximum number of syllables that any sonnet can contain is 11x14 = 154 ... which exactly matches the total number of sonnets penned by the Bard.

I wonder if Shakespeare was aware of this? Perhaps he had "154" in mind when he sat down to pen his very first sonnet? Or perhaps it's far too easy to discover codes in Shakespeare's writing? An interesting idea nonetheless.

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Comments

June 4, 2010 at 1:53 pm
(1) Patti N. says:

I just hope that none of them got left out of the cycle in order to keep the count correct.

June 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm
(2) Cyn says:

This is very interesting. However, if you study the sonnets as closely as I have and read and listen to them over and over in shuffle mode on your iPod; one thing becomes very clear–the same person did not write all 154 sonnets. Or at least the same time person didn’t write all of them at the same stage in his life. But I’m inclined to think it was another hand altogether.

June 15, 2010 at 6:32 am
(3) william s says:

That little calculation happens to be my insight on the reason for there being 154 sonnets. Sorry Ben.

The idea being he wrote a series of sonnets based on the maximum number of syllables you can put in a sonnet.

Totally unprovable of course but a nice symmetry to the whole thing.

yours
Will

Hey Cyn i’d love to hear more about your theory. Find the iloveshakespeare blog group on facebook and we’ll talk!

January 29, 2012 at 9:58 am
(4) Hey says:

This Is CRAZY, I HATE THIS

April 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm
(5) Dip stick 26 says:

That did not answer my question

March 25, 2013 at 9:51 am
(6) the Hater George says:

I disagree with all of your thoughts. The correct number would have to be 1000527.

May 10, 2013 at 1:22 am
(7) Guaranteed debt consolidation loan says:

I am actually grateful to the owner of this website who has shared this great article at here.

May 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm
(8) jared crowder says:

this dosn’t make sense!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 19, 2013 at 8:06 am
(9) DUstin says:

Sooo how many sonnets did he write? cause this didn’t answer my question AT ALL!

March 8, 2014 at 4:50 am
(10) random stranger person says:

well actually it does say he wrote 154 sonnets if you read it carefully…. but next time just leave a number and not a theory please!

March 10, 2014 at 6:11 pm
(11) Mathew Ortiz says:

It DOES say how many sonnets but you need to read it closely, otherwise you just wont know

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