Many critics segment the sonnets into three groups as follows:
- The Fair Youth Sonnets (Sonnets 1 – 126)
At first the sonnets are 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.