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.
Photo © Lee Jamieson