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But, though no critic appears to have pointed it out, this is clearly a misinterpretation of that sonnet, which, instead of marking the end of the story, really belongs to a comparatively early stage of it.
The sonnet, which it is well to quote here in order to bring it directly before the eye of the reader, is as follows:- "Two loves I have of comfort and despair, Which like two spirits do suggest me still; The better angel is a man right fair, The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil Tempteth my better angel from my side, And would corrupt my saint to be a devil, Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend Suspect I may, yet not directly tell; But being both from me, both to each friend, I guess one angel in another's hell.
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The poet says that the woman "tempteth" not, has succeeded in seducing his friend. She "would corrupt " him, but whether she has actually done it, he adds, "Suspect I may, yet not directly tell," and "I guess one angel in another's hell;" but he does not "know" this, and will "live in doubt" until the affair comes to an end.
But in Sonnets 34 and 35 he had no doubt that the "woman coloured ill" had corrupted his "better angel. In Sonnets he recurs to the "robbery" his friend has committed; and laments, not only the loss of his mistress but that of his friend:- "That thou hast her, it is not all my grief, And yet it may be said I loved her dearly; That she hath thee is of my wailing chief, A loss in love that touches me more nearly. It is not necessary, then, to assume that all or most of the Sonnets were written beforewhen The Passionate Pilgrim was published.
Perhaps comparatively few were then in existence; and this may be one of the reasons why Jaggard was unable to get more of them for his sixpenny booklet. It would be easier to keep thirty or forty out of his reach among the poet's "private friends" than a hundred and fifty; and Meres may not have had even as many as thirty in mind when he referred to the "sugred sonnets," in The others may have been scattered through several years after ; and some of those which seem independent of the regular series may have been written only a few years before the whole collection was published in Lee dates some of the sonnets much later than - He believes, for instance, with Mr.
Gerald Massey Shakespeare's Sonnetsthat the th was written inand refers to the death of Elizabeth and the release of Southampton from prison on the accession of James. But the sonnet tells us that the moon "hath her eclipse endured " and come out none the less bright - which could hardly refer to death; and the supposed allusion to the imprisonment of the poet's friend is extremely fanciful.
It may be added that Shakespeare's references to himself in the Sonnets as "old" appear to have a bearing on their date, and thus upon the question whether Herbert or Southampton was the person addressed. Thirty or more of them were written beforewhen the poet was thirty-five years old, and the first seventeen appear to have been written inwhen he was only thirty-three; but in the 22nd, which seems to be one of the earlier ones, he intimates that he is already old:- "My glass shall not persuade me I am old, So long as youth and thou are of one date;" but in the preceding sonnets he has repeatedly admonished his young friend that the summer of youth is fast flying, and has urged this as a reason why he should marry; "for," he says in substance, "you will soon be old, as I am.
Thus in the 62nd Sonnet, after referring to his own face as he sees it in the glass, "Bated and chopp'd with tann'd antiquity," he adds that he comforts himself by "Painting my age with beauty of thy days. Lee says that this "occasional reference to his growing age was a conventional device - traceable to Petrarch - of all sonneteers of the day, and admits of no literal interpretation.
By contrast, a primary reading doesn't have to articulate its findings. It engages with the poem directly, as a piece of trustworthy human discourse - which doesn't sound too revolutionary, but the truth is that many readers don't feel like that about poetry any more, and often start with: "But what does it all mean? But that isn't the kind of the first reading most poems hoped they were going to get.
The poem has much more direct designs on us. Its plan was to make us weep or change our opinion of something forever. The sonnets are no different, but currently give the appearance of being approachable only via a scholarly commentary. As, in one sense, they are: the truth is that unless you have the OED by heart, or are channelling Sir Philip Sidney, you're likely to miss half the poem.
Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis
At least half of Shakespeare's allusions are unfamiliar, and many senses, puns and proverbial usages have been completely lost. For example: knowing that "he praises who wishes to sell" was proverbial, or that "hell" was Elizabethan slang for "vagina" really can make the difference between getting a poem all right and getting it all wrong.
We need a native guide, and it's then that we turn gratefully - as I did, again and again - to the critics Katherine Duncan-Jones, Colin Burrow, John Kerrigan and the divine vivisectionist himself, Stephen Booth.
But what sometimes gets lost in their brilliant textual analyses is the poem itself. Direct readings are a bit different.
They give us three things, I think: what the poem is saying; what the poem is saying about us; and what the poem is saying about the author. We can usually get all this without generating a secondary text, through the simple act of rereading - rereading being what is most distinct about the act of reading poetry, and the reason poetry books are so thin. We don't read poems as machines reading the productions of other machines; we naturally posit a vulnerable and fallible human hand behind them.
Indeed we do this as instinctively as we meet the eyes of a stranger when they walk into the room; not to do so strikes me as perverse, and denies a sound human instinct. Why should we approach the sonnets any differently?
Many people's "close reading" model was largely inherited from the New Criticism, which railed against the so-called "intentional and affective fallacies" basically - what the author intended by the poem, and how you personally respond to it; why these are "fallacies" is lost on meand proposed that the poem had to be read on its own terms, and in its own context, alone.
We can still feel as if the author's state of mind and our own feelings about the poem are somehow beyond the critical pale.
But I just don't see why. Sure: all such talk is speculative and subjective. But worthless? I also wanted to try to bring a bit of sanity to the discussion of how Shakespeare wrote these crazy poems in the first place.
As a critic, Vendler has led me through the thickets like a bemused and grateful child for years now, but I've had growing misgivings over her critical method, and her Shakespeare book was where I finally lost it. Twice I found myself on my hands and knees, taping the book back together after it had bounced off the wall.
I wanted to say something to counteract the perception of Shakespeare's compositional method as a kind of lyric soduku, and put in a word for the kind of glorious, messy procedure I'm quite certain it was, whatever the crystalline and symmetrical beauty of the final results.
Like most poets, Shakespeare uses the poem as way of working out what he's thinking, not as a means of reporting that thought. Often he'll start with nothing more than a hangover, a fever and a bad night spent being tormented by the spectre of his absent lover. Then he'll use the sonnet as a way of making sense of it all - a way, first, to extract a logic from pain, and then a comfort from that logic, however warped it might be.
Form, in other words, allows him to draw some assuagement from the very source of the agony itself. So I decided to try to honour this sense of free play by taking as different an approach as the individual poem might itself prompt.
Other commentaries look at Elizabethan numerology, or whatever mad little ct of Shakespeare's ars poetica caught my eye. Others in the Dark Lady sequence speculate as to where Shakespeare's disgust of women's bodies might have originated.
In , a little-known article was published by Elizabeth Beckwith1to present her approach to dating some 52 of the Shakespeare Sonnets. For each sonnet she would find a line or two which echoed similar lines in a play, and then adopt the date of authorship of that play as a suggested date of composition of the sonnet. an early dating of the sonnets as a whole. These are: (1) Meres mentions Shakespeare's "sugred sonnets among his private friends" in ; (2) the "sonnet craze" . People went wild for not just sending her a range of shakespeare's career is that shakespeare of the dating sonnet themes and Will need to bear on the dating of ewa sonnet themes and the time of montreal - first date at least, realizes. We need to write poetry and the fact that support a .
My not-very-original theory is that he was forced to construe his homosexual love as wholly pure, meaning simply that his lust ended up channelled toward the sex he wasn't actually attracted to. It's here we see the horrible symmetry of the sexual logic of sonnets, a kind of little chiasmus with a half-twist: with the Young Man he's in the grip of a pure love, but stalked by the presence of lust; with the Dark Lady he's in the grip of a pure lust, but stalked by the absence of love.
Elsewhere, I got stuck into the kind of "idiot's work" that WH Auden tried to warn us off: that of trying to establish the identity of the sonnets' dramatis personae.
The trouble is that it's impossible to read the sonnets without speculating on identities. We're often simply invited to by Shakespeare's shameless hook-baiting, his cryptic clues placed there only to pique our interest.
As to whether the Young Man was Henry Wriothesley or William Herbert, I have nothing to contribute but even more confusion than there was before.
The Dark Lady is, I think, utterly unknowable - not least because Shakespeare uses her as more of a cipher, a focal point for his self-hating-fuelled misogyny. I do think of this as the most oddly impressive ct of the sonnets.
The Dark Lady poems are mostly horrible, and those that aren't are bad. Yet the plays abound with depictions of strong women - women of real agency, wisdom, power and character.
Shakespeare seems to have regarded his own perspective as being as unreliable as anyone else's, and less suppressed his own ego than "vanished" it, clearing the way for an apparently infinite capacity for human empathy. There is no one - saint, monster, sage or fool - that he couldn't ventriloquise; but to do so he had to remove himself wholly from the picture. This strikes me as a psychological miracle.
One of my more original or most likely wrong contributions to all this idiotic speculation came through a bit of amateur sleuth-work in Sonnet 86, the most famous of the "rival poet" sonnets. It's not this guy's skill that bothers him; it's the fact that his beloved's lovely face was filling up his lines.
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There's a universal law that states that poets can't share muses; there's also another one that says they often have to. Too many poets, too few muses.
For Shakespeare, the prospect of hot-musing was deeply repugnant. Well, the rival poet is often assumed to be George Chapman, of "Chapman's Homer" fame. I feel this must be right. There's far too much corroborating evidence in the poem, which I won't go into here, but Chapman had dedicated poems to Wriothesley, still our best contender for the Young Man's identity, and was known to have boasted that the ghost of Homer himself had helped him with his translation of The Iliad. However, what will have stuck in Shakespeare's craw even more was that Chapman finished off Christopher Marlowe's poem "Hero and Leander" - doubtless boasting again of Marlowe's own supernatural aid.
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This must have driven him crazy. Kit Marlowe and Shakespeare were friends, literary rivals, drinking buddies, likely collaborators; and as identically matched, world-beating talents and almost exact coevals, the two will have identified deeply with each another. Affable is just a heartbreaking touch. Not only was Marlowe a ghost - one meaning of the word familiar - he was also "familiar" in the senses of close, often-encountered, recently-dead and "on a family footing".
He's even present in the very consonants of the word. Marlowe, we think, worked as a secret agent or "intelligencer" in the proto-secret service that Francis Walsingham set up for Elizabeth I, and in all likelihood conducted espionage abroad.
Surely this would have come out over a pint of ale or six? Nothing, surely, would have delighted Shakespeare more than the thought of the ghost of Marlowe gulling the proud Chapman with false intelligence, and it will have offered him some comfort in his fight for the muse of Wriothesley.
And there I rest my shaky and conveniently mutually supportive case. But how has the little sonnet managed to honour Shakespeare's huge boast of the immortality of his own verse? I've long been convinced that if you could somehow snap your fingers and destroy every sonnet on the planet, and wipe every sonnet from every human mind, it would reappear in almost exactly the same form by teatime tomorrow.
Here is not the place to elaborate, but suffice to say that the square of the sonnet exists for reasons which are almost all direct consequences of natural law, physiological and neurological imperatives, and the grain and structure of the language itself. Or to put it another way: if human poetic speech is breath and language is soapy water, sonnets are just the bubbles you get.
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Sonnets express a characteristic shape of human thought, and are, after a bit of practice, very easy to write. No one ever blew into language and got a sestina or a villanelle - one reason I hate the damn things, two or three by Elizabeth Bishop and Auden apart. The audience can tell. Shakespeare modernised the form of the sonnet, and transformed it from a stylised, courtly love shtick to a fluent and flexible form that could turn itself to any subject. This isn't to diminish the contribution of his forebears and contemporaries; but what distinguished Shakespeare from someone like, say, Sir John Davies, was the maturity of his means.
None of this was accomplished by flailing "innovation", and this, I think, is the real poetic miracle of the sonnets.
Oct 15, á 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. Coupled with the fact that Sonnets 99 and refer respectively to an it seems appropriate that we have here also a date within the likely time span of composition. Below I set out a list of the historical events which modern scholarship has suggested is referred to in the sonnet, together with the line which contains the reference. The Date of the Sonnets. An excerpt from Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. W. J. Rolfe. New York: American Book Company, One of the most serious objections to the Southampton theory is the necessity which it involves of fixing the date of the poems as early as or That period of Shakespeare's career is so crowded with work, dramatic and poetic, that it is quite impossible to .
His strategy was twofold. First, he realised that human love was the one theme capacious enough to encompass every other - these are also poems about death, sex, politics, sin, time and space - and he needn't stray from its centre.
Second, he did this with a minimum of experiment, writing the form into transparency, until it became as effortless as breathing.