Of Shakespeare's sonnets we know and appreciate many details - the crystalline meter, the exquisite diction, the exhilarating surprise of the "turn" in the final couplet. By contrast, we know very little of their subjects and motives. For this reason, this book does not approach the sonnets as Shakespearean autobiography. Instead, it delineates the customs and beliefs that shaped the sonnets, Shakespeare's life, and his world, and considers them in that context. Departing from the traditional rhapsodizing over the sonnets as timeless expressions of love, this book argues for understanding the sonnets in their time, as this consummate poet's brilliant, edgy expression of the equally brilliant, edgy culture of the English Renaissance.