Why did Shakespeare write the 154 Sonnets and what is their significance?
Shakespeare wrote the Sonnets to explore all aspects of love.
In Shakespeare’s day, a sonnet was the quintessential expression of love. To capture the essence of love in all its forms in simple poetry is not easy. Shakespeare sought to tell a story about everything related to love.
One aspect of love is obsession and infatuation. It is the “rose-colored glasses” that come with thinking one’s lover is perfect. This is represented well in one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets, “Sonnet 18.”
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date… (Sonnet 18)
In this poem, Shakespeare captures the innocence of young love, and the beauty of finding everything you seek in your lover.
Contrast this to the depiction of love in “Sonnet 138,” which is less idealistic.
When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
In this sonnet we see that love is not all roses. Love involves conflict, and often deceit. Sometimes we get so caught up in loving someone that we do not realize how they are harming us.
In these and all the sonnets, Shakespeare explores the different aspects of love, and how love can change and differ.