Sonnet 33

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For Sonnet 33 by Elizabeth Barret Browning, see Sonnets from the Portuguese.
Sonnet 33

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.

–William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Sonnet 33 is the first of what are sometimes called the estrangement sonnets (33-36): poems concerned with the speaker's response to an unspecified "sensual fault" (35) committed by his beloved.


I've seen many beautiful mornings on which the sun shines on the mountaintops, the meadows, and streams. Yet soon, clouds overcast the sun, hiding the sun from the world until it sinks in the west. In the same way, my beloved shone on me one morning, making me happy, yet an hour later he too was hidden by clouds. I do not scorn him for this; even the best humans may err when the sun of heaven does so.

Source and analysis[edit]

Nicolaus Delius notes thematic and stylistic parallels to the last scene of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. George Steevens and Edward Dowden were among the first to group the so-called "estrangement sonnets" and to note the parallels to other groups (such as 40 - 42) with similar themes.

The sonnet and the ones that follow have been especially attractive to critics interested in biographical reference in the sonnet; George Wyndham deplores this tendency, as does Stephen Booth.

Hilton Landry notes that the poem is an extended simile with metaphors in each branch of the simile; he also called it the "simplest and sweetest" of the group. Elizabeth Sagaser notes that the poem is counterposed to Sonnet 116.

The poem's conceit has numerous parallels in Shakespeare's plays. Sidney Lee compares "flatter" (line 2) to a similar usage in King John 3.1.77-80. Steevens, Edward Capell, and Henry Brown note parallels in other plays. Edmond Malone glosses "rack" (line 6) as "the quick motion of the clouds"; "region" (10), a term for a division of the atmosphere, echoes and amplifies the reference. Rolfe notes that "forlorn" (line 7) was in Elizabethan pronunciation with the accent on the first syllable when it follows an unaccented syllable.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge analyzes the poem as an instance of how Shakespeare "gives a dignity and passion to the objects that he presents. Unaided by any previous excitement, they burst upon us at once in life and in power."

Michael Wood suggests in In Search of Shakespeare that this sonnet might have nothing to do with the so-called Fair Youth sonnets, that it alludes to the death of the poet's son, Hamnet in 1596 at age 11, and that there is an implied pun on "sun" and "son": "Even so my sun one early morn did shine, with all triumphant splendour on my brow; but out, alack, he was but one hour mine, the region cloud hath mask'd him from me now".

If this is the case the link of this sonnet with sonnets 34,35 and 36 would be entirely coincidental and spurious.

Note that in this sonnet (1) there is no overt "you" or "thou" (contrary to most of the sonnets and in particular to sonnets 34, 35 and 36 which all three use "thou") and (2) there is no mention of the supposed "fault" committed by the addressee towards the poet (as in sonnets 34 and 35) nor of the supposed "guilt" borne by the poet which may affect the addressee's reputation (as in sonnet 36).



  • Alden, Raymond (1916). The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.
  • Baldwin, T. W. (1950). On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
  • Booth, Stephen (1977). Shakespeare's Sonnets. Yale University Press, New Haven.
  • Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1817). Biographia Literaria. London.
  • Dowden, Edward (1881). Shakespeare's Sonnets. London.
  • Evans, G. Blakemore, Anthony Hecht, (1996). Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Hubler, Edwin (1952). The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  • Kerrigan, John (1987). Shakespeare's Sonnets. Penguin, New York.
  • Landry, Hilton (1963). Interpretation in Shakespeare's Sonnets. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Sagaser, Elizabeth (1994). Shakespeare's Sweet Leaves: Mourning, pleasure, and the triumph of thought in the Renaissance love lyric. ELH, 61. pp. 1-26.
  • Schoenfeldt, Michael (2007). The Sonnets: The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Poetry. Patrick Cheney, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Tyler, Thomas (1989). Shakespeare’s Sonnets. London D. Nutt.
  • Vendler, Helen (1997). The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

External links[edit]