How Many Poems Did Shakespeare Write

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englishteacher72 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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While William Shakespeare is better known as the greatest playwright that ever lived, he also wrote many sonnets.  In total, he wrote thirty-seven plays, 154 sonnets, and five long narrative poems, including "Venus and Adonis", "The Rape of Lucrece", "The Passionate Pilgrim", "The Phoenix and the Turtle", and "A Lover's Complaint".  From what I have read, poems were usually reserved only for nobility, which is probably why Shakespeare only had five published.  He, himself, was not nobility.  All of his poems were very well-received, and the majority of them dealt with erotic themes.  He dedicated two of the poems, "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece", to the Earl of Southampton, whom some scholars consider to be Shakespeare's lover.   

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thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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William Shakespeare wrote poems between 1593 and 1594. A plague ravaging the country forced the closure of most public places, including theaters, offering him ample time to develop his poems. He wrote two long narrative poems which were erotically themed. The two poems include Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. In the first poem, Venus sexually approaches Adonis, who rejects these advances. In the second poem, Tarquin, rapes Lucrece, a well-mannered wife. The poems were dedicated to the Earl of Southampton and sought to describe the perils of lust. During the same period, Shakespeare developed other narrative poems including, A lover’s Complaint, telling a story of a young woman pursued by a seductive suitor and The Phoenix and the Turtledove.  The four poems have been attributed directly to Shakespeare because they were published with his consent.

The Passionate Pilgrim was not actually a poem but a collection of poems attributed to Shakespeare. However, the collection is marred by controversy as only five of the twenty pieces show Shakespearean standards.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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As you can see by the previous answers, this question is almost a trick question. Depending on whether you consider certain parts of Shakespeare’s famous plays “poems” or whether you consider works such as The Passionate Pilgrim as “poems” will affect your answer. In order not to write a dissertation on what it means to be a “poem” by debating minute aspects of this literary form, I would suggest making things simple and listing the number of Shakespeare’s poems as 156.

In order to make this answer as simple as possible, I would have to report the number of Shakespeare’s true poems as 156: Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets and his two agreed upon long narrative poems. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Shakespeare’s true love and his livelihood were his plays; however, something serious happened in London that prevented further performances: the plague. It is a fact that the plague forced the British government to close down many public places (specifically theaters) in order to prevent the spread. This was what left Shakespeare able to develop his poems. It is also interesting to note that almost all 156 of Shakespeare’s poems have the theme of love and are sensual in some way (while some are outright sexual). Shakespeare’s sonnets’ subject are an interesting debate in itself. Were they written for a woman? Shakespeare’s wife? A young male lover? No one really knows, but scholars have fun debating these ideas. It is generally known that the two longer narrative poems called Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were written for a “supposed” male lover of Shakespeare’s: The Earl of Southampton. In fact, the two poems are dedicated to him.

In conclusion, although this eNotes Educator sets the number of Shakespeare’s poems at 154, she must admit that the eNotes Educators above are also “correct” in suggesting different numbers. There are excerpts of Shakespeare’s plays that are often considered poems. There are also other pieces like A Lover’s Complaint and The Passionate Pilgrim that can be argued either way. My answer, then, removes any work that scholars disagree upon in regards to the literary form.

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theyellowbookworm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Shakespeare’s surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems embedded into the plays themselves.

According to tradition, Shakespeare wrote his two long narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, in 1592-94, during a period of forced unemployment when an outbreak of the plague closed London’s theaters. The poems were published, respectively, in 1593 and 1594.

Shakespeare’s famous sonnets and another fairly lengthy poem, The Phoenix and Turtle, are believed to have been written early in his career. They were published some years later, perhaps without his permission. The first 17 sonnets advise a beautiful young man to marry and produce a child. The next 109 sonnets prounounce the poet’s love for this young man and claim that the poems will preserve the young man’s beauty. The sequence concludes with 28 sonnets to or about a "dark lady."

Scholars disagree about whether to attribute another poem, A Lover's Complaint, to Shakespeare.

Scholars generally agree that Shakespeare wrote thirty eight plays, although recent claims have been made for King Edward III and some scholars would include part of Sir Thomas More. Another play, Cardenio, has not survived.

Interestingly, Shakespeare’s complete works – including both his poems and plays – consist of 884,647 words and 118,406 lines.

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menen1892 | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Currently, 154 sonnets and 3 narrative poems are attributed to William Shakespeare. Technically, sonnets are poems, but they are short and only have 14 lines. These sonnets or  poems by Shakespeare are written in iambic pentameter and feature a strict rhyming pattern. Shakespeare's 3 narrative poems are "A Lover's Complaint", "Venus and Adonis", and "The Rape of Lucrece". Narrative poems are long poems which are stories that are written in poetic verse. There may be more poems that have been written by William Shakespeare, but they have not been verified as being written by him at this current moment.

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