And some of those were pretty bad. Its reputation seems to have been made by the fact that someone decided it would be fun to teach to schoolchildren. Even more distressingly, more than one perfectly well-read individual remarked: "Many of them are addressed to a man, I believe," as if the information had only recently come to light through ingenious advances in 21st-century cryptography.
So I started to make a list of questions: were the 10 poems that everyone quoted the best 10? Do the sonnets contain what we believe them to contain? Are they still useful to us? Do these poems still move us, speak to us, enlighten us? Is their reputation as a lovers' handbook deserved, or have they simply hitched a ride on the back of the plays? First, a word about the sonnets themselves. They consist of poems first published in as Shake-speares Sonnets. Never before imprinted. They can be neatly divided into three main groups.
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The first is a run of 17 poems, which all embroider the same theme; with two or three exceptions, they are so dull it's a wonder anyone ever reads any further. These are the so-called "procreation sonnets", in which Shakespeare urges an unnamed young man to marry and reproduce, so his beauty will survive. I agree with William Boyd who scripted a marvellous piece of free speculation for the BBC called A Waste of Shame that they read a lot like a commission, and could well have been paid for by the Young Man's mother, perturbed by his Lack of Interest in the Opposite Sex.
The second is a sequence of poems addressed, apparently, to the same Young Man. In gut-wrenching, febrile, tormented detail, they chart the whole narrative of a love affair. Then we have a strange line poem, whose "absent couplet" seems to invoke the absent couple, and symbolise the end of the affair.
Shakespeare's "Dark Lady"-sonnets: The hell of sexuality – the sexuality of hell
Then we have 28 poems addressed to a mistress, the so-called "Dark Lady" the number 28 might echo the menses, which would fit with the poems' barely disguised obsession with the uncleanliness of women's bodies , and then a bizarre pair of poems to close with. It's still controversial as to whether the original Quarto edition was authorised by Shakespeare, but I fall very strongly into the "there's absolutely no way he didn't authorise them" camp. The sequence has been ordered in a meticulously careful, sensitive and playful way that can only indicate the author's hand.
My reasoning is simple: publishers care, and editors care, but none of them care that much. The sonnets seem to have been composed between and their date of publication, — between Shakespeare's 18th and 45th birthdays. I know: this is a useless piece of information. However the date refers to an isolated piece of juvenilia.
Sonnet is a sonnet so bad that only the likely youth of its author can be offered up as an excuse, while the so-called "dating sonnets" seem to imply that the larger part of the project was likely over some time before Sonnet , for one, seems heavily nailed to James I's coronation. Most folk still argue that the poems were written in a six- or seven-year span in the mids.
Indeed, Francis Meres refers to them in "The witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugar'd sonnets among his private friends. What we do know is that the sonnets were part of an extraordinary fashion for sonnet-cycles in the s. These were wildly competitive affairs. The bar had been set high by Sir Philip Sidney with the sonnets of Astrophil and Stella , which had been in private circulation from the early s. A poet would be judged on more than the length of his sequence, of course, but size still counted for a lot, and padding was rife.
After the "boring procreation sonnets", things look up at Sonnet 18, with the wonderful "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? And to hell with breeding — the power of my own verse will keep your beauty immortal. I still have no settled opinion on the matter, but the poems do seem to have a clear dramatic narrative.
However, the question: "was Shakespeare gay? Of course he was. Arguably he was bisexual, of sorts, but his heart was never on his straight side. Now is not the time to rehearse them all, but the arguments against his homosexuality are complex and sophistical, and often take convenient and homophobic advantage of the sonnets' built-in interpretative slippage — which Shakespeare himself would have needed for what we would now call "plausible deniability", should anyone have felt inclined to cry sodomy. The argument in favour is simple. First, falling in love with other men is often a good indication of homosexuality; and second, as much as I love some of my male friends, I'm never going to write poems for them, even the dead ones.
Third, read the poems, then tell me these are "pure expressions of love for a male friend" and keep a straight face. This is a crazy, all-consuming, feverish and sweaty love; love, in all its uncut, full-strength intensity; an adolescent love. The reader's thrill lies in hearing this adolescent love articulated by a hyper-literate thirty-something. Usually these kids can't speak.
The effect is extraordinary: they are not poems that are much use when we're actually in love, I'd suggest; but when we read them, they are so visceral in their invocation of that mad, obsessive, sleepless place that we can again feel, as CK Williams said, "the old heart stamping in its stall".
But do these poems still speak to us of love in the same way? An honest answer to: "What are these poems to us now? In the end, putting together a guide to the sonnets, I decided I'd write it in the form of a diary. That's to say I read the sonnets as you would any other book, fitting them round my work routine and domestic obligations.
All he can offer by way of consolation is a specular image of the Bard. Grubby, efflitic Enderby, having side-stepped the heart attack which killed him in The Clockwork Testament , turns his hand, in this new novel, to Shakespearean fiction. Enderby is not surprised. Yet Enderby himself is hardly at fault.
William Shakespeare and a Summary of Sonnet 144
Indeed, he starts to look Shakespearean. Swayed by the Terrebasse company, like the Bard by Burgess, Kemp et al. In a final, farcical sequence, the two bards osmose. When the male lead flounces out, just before the press night, Enderby finds himself in hose and a codpiece, playing Shakespeare to a packed, responsive house.
He does rather well — not least when pawing April on her upstage daybed; and, back in the dressing-room, he finds a clear sign of supernatural approbation.
While the bones stir and the mirror glisters, Burgess attacks America. Using Shakespeare as his implied measure, he tries US culture and finds it sadly wanting. True, he betrays a sneaking regard for the Deep South Baptist community in which Ms Elgar has her roots, but he mocks the gracelessness of Middle America without mercy. Highballs at dinner, truculent cab-drivers, blue jeans, junk food: all such evils make him prickly and satiric.
Time and again in the Terrebasse chapters, the reader enjoys easy laughs, uneasily. Less tendentious are the stories which bracket the central novella.
The mulberry tree was doing well. Zooming back from the 21st century, with transcripts from the Folio in his scrip, a scholar called Paley visits Shakespeare in his London lodging to discover what he was writing in the mids. Jorge Luis Burgess thus shows the texts authorlessly creating themselves out of a time loop.
Such pedants deserve the dreary lives they lead, totting up variants or tracing bits of broken type through Jacobean quartos; but their dull routine is alleviated, from time to time, by the arrival of The Stratford Tragi-Comedy ,  a newsletter devoted to the theory that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare. Nicholas Shrimpton, D. Burgess and his reviewers may resent their conscription into the anti-Stratford camp, but the company is distinguished there. One notable the Enderbians will not find at their side, however, is A. He goes on: "In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds, And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.
By superficial denial, he confirms that she is indeed black. In Sonnet the poet returns to describing the lady's eyes as black: "Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me Knowing thy heart torment me with disdain Have put on black, and loving mourners be," and goes on to speak of her dark complexion: "Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east" not only are the lady's cheeks grey but she is said to come from the east, perhaps of Indo, Arabic, or North African origin.
Finally: "Then will I swear beauty herself is black, And all they foul that thy complexion lack. We need to take care with the word complexion here though as it did not just mean a person's skin colour and condition to the Elizabethans, it could also mean state of mind and mood as well. In Sonnet 18 it is clearly used to mean colouring: "Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimmed" and in Sonnet "So flatter I the swart-complexioned night" and in Sonnet "The purple pride Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells" and in 2 Henry IV, Act 2, Scene 2: Prince Harry: "Faith, it does me, though it discolours the complexion of my greatness to acknowledge it.
He surely affected her for her wit. Dromio Of Syracuse: "Swart like my shoe, but her face nothing like so clean kept. In Sonnet , the poet explicitly describes the woman's colour: "The better angel is a man right fair, The worser spirit a woman coloured ill. Conclusive evidence for the Dark Lady being a black woman lies in Love's Labours Lost, Act 4, Scene 3, in a remarkable dialogue between the King and Biron which perfectly correlates with the words and descriptions of the Dark Lady sonnets.
cojobocile.tk Forum: Dark Lady of Shakespeare's Sonnets (1/1)
In this passage, Biron claims the woman he loves to be fairer than the women of the day who wear cosmetics and wigs to try and beautify themselves which his lover does not need. His lover is defined as being as black as ebony, as black as chimney sweeps, a person who makes colliers look bright by comparison, and is blacker than Ethiops. As true we are as flesh and blood can be. The sea will ebb and flow, heaven show his face. Young blood doth not obey an old decree. We cannot cross the cause why we were born, Therefore of all hands must we be forsworn.
What peremptory eagle-sighted eye Dares look upon the heaven of her brow That is not blinded by her majesty? My love, her mistress, is a gracious moon, She an attending star, scarce seen a light.
O, but for my love, day would turn to night.
Related Shakespeares Dark Lady-sonnets: The hell of sexuality – the sexuality of hell
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