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William Shakespeare

To me,
fair Friend

Cut your teeth on these ones!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 1 March 2014
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The poet looks at the beauty of his "fair Friend" and decides that this beauty is ageless. Indeed, he has known this "Friend" for three years now and believes that she is quite as beautiful as when he first met her.

Later in the sonnet he does appear to have some hesitation about the lasting impact of aging, but then concludes rather outrageously that the beauty of this "fair Friend" is beyond even Beauty herself.


William Shakespeare, commonly known simply as "The Bard", was born in April 1564. Although he lived a mere 52 years, he has won himself the reputation of being the greatest of all English poets and playwrights.

He grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon where, at the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway with whom he had three children. Modern scholars love to question whether or not he was actually gay -- but such is the energy-sapping research of these scholars.

The Bard established a most successful career for himself in acting and in writing for the stage. Ultimately he became the part-owner of The Lord Chamberlain's Men, a theatrical company which eventually came to be known as The King's Men.

In his early years in theatrics, Shakespeare focussed his attention on writing comedies and histories. Only later did he produce a series of tragedies such as Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear, the works for which he is preeminently known.

Although he wrote two lengthy narrative poems as well as several other shorter poems, his reputation as a poet was established through his amazing collection of sonnets -- 154 in all.

Indeed, his particular style of sonnet, commonly known as the Elizabethan form, is also referred to simply as "the Shakespearian sonnet".

In about 1613, he returned to Stratford-upon-Avon and died there in April 1616.

Scholars would later come to question not only his sexual stance but also whether or not it was he who actually wrote all the work attributed to him.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"Three winters' cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride."
  • Rewrite in your own words, "Three winters' cold" but without using the apostrophe. (2)

[Need help?]

  • What impact does the word "shook" have when speaking about winter? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What is the significance of winter within a poetic setting like this one? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why does the poet refer to "summer's pride"? (4)

[Need help?]

"Three winters' cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd."
  • Analyse the contrast which the poet sees in Winter and Summer, and between Spring and Autumn. (4)

[Need help?]

"Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green."
  • Why does the poet contrast the "April perfumes" with the "June heat"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What do you think Shakespeare meant when he said, "Since first I saw you fresh"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What is the implication of being "green"? (4)

[Need help?]

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See also:
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