home contact
The forward violet thus did I chide: I did chide the too early violet:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells, Sweet thief, from where did you steal your fragrance
If not from my love's breath? The purple pride If not from the breath of my mistress? The purple hue
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells That colors your soft complexion dwells
In my love's veins thou hast too grossly dyed. In my lover's veins -- that too you have taken from her.
The lily I condemned for thy hand, The lily I condemned, for stealing the whiteness from your hand,
And buds of marjoram had stol'n thy hair: And buds of marjoram had stolen the color from your hair:
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand, The roses stood fearfully on thorns,
One blushing shame, another white despair; One red with shame, one white with despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stol'n of both A third, not red or white, had taken the color of both
And to his robbery had annex'd thy breath; And furthermore stole your breath;
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth But, as punishment for his theft, when he was in full bloom
A vengeful canker eat him up to death. A canker-worm, avenging the theft, devoured him.
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see I noted many more flowers, yet I could see none
But sweet or colour it had stol'n from thee. That had not stolen your sweetness or beauty from you.

love's veins...dyed (5): i.e., 'it is blatantly obvious that you have taken your complexion from my lover's veins.'

As T.G. Tucker points out in his edition of the Sonnets: "The word [purple] has the advantage of being used (1) the color of blood in the veins, (2) of the characteristic color of royal 'pride'. Though 'purple' is not 'blue', the adjective (like Latin. Purpureus) might be freely used of bright rich colors; cf. Gray's 'The bloom of young desire and purple light of love (though that line is borrowed from Greek). There may also be the suggestion that the friend's blood was the bluest of sangre azul." (Sonnets of Shakespeare. Cambridge: University Press, 1924, [172]).

Sonnet 99 is an anomaly in that it has fifteen lines. Some argue that this is not the finished draft, and that Shakespeare would likely have edited it to fit the standard format. However, I believe that Shakespeare intentionally left it containing fifteen lines. In Shakespeare's time, although the majority of sonnets had fourteen lines, it was not unusual for sonnets to contain more lines. And, in this particular case, fifteen lines fit perfectly Shakespeare's poetic purpose. Sonnet 99, with its straightforward list of nature's beauties, is one of Shakespeare's more conventional works. However, if one were looking for interesting elements of the poem to analyze, the disturbing and seemingly out-of-place imagery in lines 12 and 13 would be worthy of that analysis.


Habicht, Werner. Shakespeare's Universe: Renaissance Ideas and Conventions. New York: Scolar Press, 1996.
Martin, Philip J. T. Shakespeare's Sonnets: Self, Love and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1972.
Ransom, John Crowe. Shakespeare at Sonnets. Shakespeare, the Sonnets. Ed. Peter Jones. London: Macmillan Press, 1977. 107-8. 1924.
Shakespeare, William. The Works of Shakespeare. Ed. John Dover Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969.

How to Cite this Article

Mabillard, Amanda. An Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 99. Shakespeare Online. 2000. (day/month/year you accessed the information) < >.


Related Articles

 Introduction to Shakespeare's Sonnets
 Shakespearean Sonnet Basics
 Shakespeare's Sonnets: Q & A
 Are Shakespeare's Sonnets Autobiographical?
 Shakespeare's Greatest Love Poem

 The Order of the Sonnets
 The Date of the Sonnets
 Who was Mr. W. H.?
 Are all the Sonnets addressed to two Persons?
 Who was The Rival Poet?
 Shakespearean Wedding Readings
 Shakespeare on Love

 Words Shakespeare Invented
 Reasons Behind Shakespeare's Influence
 Shakespeare's Blank Verse
 Daily Life in Shakespeare's London
 What did Shakespeare drink?
 What did Shakespeare look like?
 Shakespeare's Language