Why do so many of the sonnets begin with a question?

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Of the 154 sonnets in the now standard edition, 29 feature the unusual device of a question within the first quatrain. The initiation of the sonnet with a question accords with a logical pattern that unfolds in many of the poems. The narrator considers several responses to the question asked and rejects them. Through a process of negation and elimination, the narrator arrives at something like an affirmative answer to the original question. Quite often, however, the final answer is ambivalent and indeterminate in character. The narrator acknowledges the inadequacy of his own words in several of the sonnets, as in the first line of Sonnet 115 where he confides that "Those lines that I have writ before do lie."

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Shakespeare's Sonnets

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