Sonnet Signatures

Shakespeare’s sonnets visualized as signatures based on their letters

Sonnet Signatures visualizes each of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets by charting the letters used within each one. This requires some extra thought when looking at the sonnets but it's of secondary importance. What's more interesting to consider is the hidden shapes revealed by looking at centuries-old poetry through a different lens. This lens gives each sonnet its own identity like a person's signature. No two are the same—or even similar. Connections between the shape and the meaning of a sonnet is coincidental but a welcome interpretation. The signatures are not meant to assign meaning but to inspire others to think about them differently than before.

Each line of a sonnet was assigned a point with coordinates on a graph based on the number of letters used excluding punctuation (x axis) and the average value of the letters excluding punctuation (y axis). Average value was calculated using a simple formula (a=1 + b=2 + c=3 + …) then dividing by the number of letters in the line. All the points were then connected with a sweeping exaggerated stroke based on the order of the lines in the sonnet (1 to 2 to 3, etc). The result is a collection of unique shapes resembling signatures.

This technique could be applied to any text but works best with shorter snippets like sonnets or other poetry whereas longer text results in illegible scribbles.

Text of the sonnets is based on the original 1609 language and featured on each poster with original formatting. Scans of which can be found on the Internet Archive.

Close up of signatures

Legend of posters


Posters are available for each sonnet and as a composite all on one.