All the Sonnets of Shakespeare

(Featured photo: Dame Judi Dench reading one of the sonnets in the form of a letter in All’s Well that Ends Well.)*

All the Sonnets of Shakespeare

Edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells

ISBN 9781108490399                                             20 pages                                 Hardcover/$17.95 | September 2020
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They are personal poems in as much as they present themselves to us immediately and at varying levels of intimacy. They have Shakespeare’s DNA running through them.

How can we look afresh at Shakespeare as a writer of sonnets? What new light might they shed on his career, personality  and sexuality?

Shakespeare wrote sonnets for at least thirty years, not only for himself, for professional reasons, and for those he loved, but also in his plays, as prologues, as epilogues, and as part of their poetic texture. This groundbreaking book assembles all of Shakespeare’s sonnets in their probable order of com- position. An inspiring introduction debunks long-established biographical myths about Shakespeare’s sonnets and proposes new insights about how and why he wrote them. Explanatory notes and modern English paraphrases of every poem and dramatic extract illuminate the meaning of these sometimes challenging but always deeply rewarding witnesses to Shakespeare’s inner life and professional expertise.

Beautifully printed and elegantly presented, this volume will be treasured by students, scholars, and every Shakespeare enthusiast.

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About the Editors

Paul Edmondson is Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. He is the author, co-author, and co-editor of many books and articles about Shakespeare, including Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile, Twelfth Night, The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography and Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy (both with Stanley Wells), Shakespeare’s Creative Legacies (with Peter Holbrook); Finding Shakespeare’s New Place: An Archaeological Biography (with Kevin Colls and William Mitchell) and New Places: Shakespeare and Civic Creativity (co-edited with Ewan Fernie).

Stanley Wells  is Honorary President at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. His many books include Shakespeare: For All Time, Looking for Sex in Shakespeare, Shakespeare & Co., Shakespeare, Sex, and Love and Great Shakespeare Actors. He edited Shakespeare Survey for almost twenty years, and is co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Stage (with Sarah Stanton)The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare (with Margreta de Grazia) and The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography. He is also the General Editor of the Oxford and Penguin editions of Shakespeare.

Advanced Praise for All the Sonnets of Shakespeare

What a fresh and lovely idea! I’ve been speaking the sonnets for most of my life. They are such wonderful training for an actor, and the notes and paraphrases in this book are just what we all need to guide us through them. – Dame Judi Dench

Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells have done something daring, controversial, and richly illuminating.  To the 154 poems collected in the celebrated volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets they have conjoined the sonnets that appear in the plays – such as the famous lines shared by Romeo and Juliet. To these they have added a number of passages from the plays that are in effect close relations to the conventional sonnet form.  The result is to break down the walls and set Shakespeare’s famous sequence in a much expanded field of poetic making. But that is not all: jettisoning the order in which the sonnets first appeared in print, Edmondson and Wells arrange them in what they take to be their chronological order of composition.  The result is something radical and unsettling.  To make these deeply familiar poems seem unexpected and new is a significant achievement. – Stephen Greenblatt, Author of Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics and The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve

A marvelously refreshing new look at Shakespeare’s devotion to the sonnet form, expanding our understanding of the published sonnets by adding those he included in the plays. The single sentence description of each sonnet is also immensely useful and helpful to even the most seasoned reader. – Gregory Doran, Royal Shakespeare Company, Artistic Director

This is a book of clarity and love which shadows the mind in time of Shakespeare the poet and in so doing brings us closer than ever before to his own awareness of the reach of his genius. – Carol Ann Duffy

(Article and images courtesy Cambridge University Press.
*Photo credit: Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSC)


Principal of Philanthropy Lifestyles (formerly, the award-winning eBuzzNewsletter and Adams Communications Public Relations, a boutique PR firm specializing in media and community relations for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Sharon is also a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Dallas Business Journal, Katy Trail Weekly, People Newspapers (Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People/North Dallas People), Preston Hollow Life magazine, The Park Cities News, White Rock Lake Weekly, numerous blogs and websites and more.