Sonnet 54 | O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem

Sonnet 54 | O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem

By William Shakespeare

Original Text of the Sonnet

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,

By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!

The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem

For that sweet odour which doth in it live.


The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye

As the perfumed tincture of the roses,

Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly

When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:


But, for their virtue only is their show,

They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,

Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;

Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:


And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,

When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.


Modern Text of Sonnet 54

Oh, how much more beautiful beauty appears 

when accompanied by the lovely ornament of integrity! 

Roses look beautiful, but we see them as even more beautiful. 

because of that wonderful perfume that lives in them.

Dog roses have every bit as intense a colour 

as the perfumed hue of those roses; 

have the same thorns, and blow as appealingly 

when the breath of summer opens their buds. 

But because their appearance is their only virtue 

they live obscurely 

and die unnoticed, in loneliness. Sweet roses don’t – 

The most fragrant odours are distilled from their beautiful corpses. 

And that’s the case with you, beautiful and lovely youth: 

When that fades, my verse will distill your essence.


Introduction to Shakespearean Sonnets

Sonnet 54 is one of the 154 sonnets written by William Shakespeare which were published in the year 1609. The majority of the sonnets were inspired by a man that Shakespeare admired, while some of these sonnets were written for Shakespeare’s mistress. Shakespeare shared a very complicated love triangle with these two. Major themes of the sonnet revolve around love, envy, infidelity, beauty, mortality and delusion. Shakespearean sonnets, even after hundreds of years, have still not lost their charm and are still read and idolised by the readers.

Introduction to the Sonnet

This sonnet, like most of the other Shakespearean sonnets, is dedicated to the beauty of the fair youth. This man, the fair youth, according to Shakespeare, is wanted and loved when he’s alive. He because of his charm and respect is adored and admire. And even after death, he will still be remembered and will stay alive, just like roses. 

Summary of Sonnet 54 | O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem

Oh, how beautiful a person becomes when his beauty is combined with integrity. Roses, for example, are beautiful to look at. But, they are considered much more precious because of their sweet. They are wanted, admired and loved. On the other hand, the dog roses are equally colorful. They too have beautiful colors like roses. They grow in the same thorns as rose does, but they live unnoticed and die unwanted, unlike roses. After a rose dies, they are turned into aromatic perfumes which are loved by the people. You too, my beautiful love, are like a rose. You too will be loved and appreciated after your death. Your beauty shall live, even after your demise, in my poetry.

Structure of the Sonnet

Sonnet 54 consists of fourteen lines. These lines are divided into four stanzas. The first three stanzas are quatrains, a stanza made of four lines, while the last stanza is a couplet, a stanza consisting of two lines. This structure is followed by all of the Shakespearean sonnets. The rhyme scheme of sonnet 54 and the rest of the sonnets is abab cdcd efef and gg.

Use of Poetic Devices in the Sonnet

Poetic devices amplify the charm and richness of a text. They enable the poet to create the intensity that he wants to create. Shakespeare used multiple poetic devices in sonnet 54, like alliteration and metaphor.



Alliteration is the repetition of the first sound of words closely placed together within a line. 

In the following line, for example

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,

The sound of m is repeated in the words much and more, and the sound of b is repeated in the words beauty and beauteous.

In the line

When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:

The sound of b is repeated in the breath and buds.

Another example of alliteration can be found in the following line of the poem

They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,

The sound of u is repeated in unwoo’d and unrespected.

And in the line

Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:

The sound of s is repeated in the words sweet and sweetest.



Metaphor is the comparison of two unlike things without using like or as. Shakespeare has compared the fair youth, the man that he loves, in this particular poem to a beautiful rose, which keeps its integrity intact in life and even after death. The technique can rightly be called an extended metaphor because this idea is dragged throughout the poem.

The Theme of Sonnet 54

The main theme of Sonnet 54 revolves around the beauty of the beloved. To a lover, his beloved is beautiful when he is alive and he might never lose his charm and worth, even after death. He remains respected and admired till eternity.