What did Samuel Taylor Coleridge think of Shakespeare’s Sonnets?
Coleridge begins by establishing four symbols which stand for in increasing order of merit: the 'first class of goodness', '2nd or next higher', '3rd or higher still', or '4th or highest'.
He further explains that 'The figures mark how many lines the praise is meant to extend to. If the marks be placed on the left, or before the Number of the Sonnet, the manner or style is praised, if on the right or behind it, the thoughts or matter: if over the number, both style and thought: - all according to the feelings & taste of S.T.C.’
In all, only 6 of 154 sonnets achieve the highest mark, including ‘The expense of Spirit in a waste of shame’, while others such as ‘Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day’ achieve only a modest ‘1st class of goodness’.