154 Shakespearean Sonnets, Visualized As Elizabethan-Era Emoji

In addition to his 38 classic plays, William Shakespeare also wrote 154 sonnets that gave the world some of his most memorable lines (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”). In Sonnet Signatures, digital artist Nicholas Rougeux visualizes each sonnet as a sweeping, signature-like glyph that is a geometric representation of the beautiful poetry contained within.

To create the signatures, Rougeux took each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, stripped them of their punctuation, then assigned each letter used a numerical value (a=1, b=2, c=3, and so on). He then used the number of letters on each line as his x axis, and the total value of the letters as his y axis. Plotting these points on a grid, Rougeux connected each sonnet line with a sweeping exaggerated stroke, in the order the lines appear in the sonnet.

Although they look random, the resulting signatures are strangely compelling. Some look like bizarre squiggles, while others resemble beautiful calligraphy. It’s unlikely that the shape of each signature would tell you much about the sonnet it was based on by itself, but there’s still something beautiful about them. You can almost imagine a prospective lover memorizing them to scrawl in the margins of a love letter, or someone asking for one of these signatures to be imprinted upon a locket to give to a partner.

Like Rougeux’s previous literary visualizations, the Sonnet Signatures are available for purchase as prints, either individually (with the sonnet itself written out) or as one mega-print (without the full text of the sonnets). Each one costs around $28, and can be purchased directly from Rougeux’s website here.

All Images: Nicholas Rougeux