Some of the most entertaining speculation about Shakespeare's life results from a reading of the Sonnets that sees them as revealing the innermost secrets of his love life.

The Sonnets were published in 1609 (in an edition that may not have been authorised by Shakespeare) by the publisher Thomas Thorpe (T. T.). We know that at least some of the Sonnets were written earlier, however, because in 1598 Francis Meres mentions Shakespeare's "sugared Sonnets [circulating] among his private friends, etc."

Speculation begins with the ambiguous wording of the dedication...