Almost all are in the verse form afterwards known as Shakespearean sonnet and deal in large part with a beautiful young man (the Fair Lord), a rival poet and a Dark Lady whose identities have been the subject of much debate. Some have suggested that the young man is the same as the "W.H." referred to in the publisher's dedication, possibly William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, a patron of the stage. The rival poet is sometimes identified with Christopher Marlowe. However, no hard evidence that any of the sonnets' characters have real-life counterparts. The narrator himself could even be a fictional device and not a reflection of Shakespeare's feeling.
Shakespeare's repeated declarations of love for the young man are charged with a fine homoerotic sensitivity, full of passion and thinly veiled allusions to sexuality, going as far as practically stripping the boy naked in (20), although others prefer to see them as supreme expressions of Platonic love, deliberately contrasted with the carnal attractiveness of that woman who Shakespeare elusively calls the Dark Lady and presumably other women.
Quotations (With Number of Sonnet)