Understanding Shakespeare's Sonnets

Understanding Shakespeare's Sonnets

In the year of the 400th anniversary of their publication Professors Stanley Wells, CBE, and Jonathan Bate, CBE, talk to Paul Edmondson about the content and context of Shakespeare’s collection of sonnets.

400 years ago were published some of the greatest poems we've ever known in the English language 2009 is a 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's sonnets which burst onto an astonished London scene in 1609 why would you say the sonnets have become so popular as part of Shakespeare's output Jonathan well have become is there any interesting part of your question that Paul because actually when they were published four hundred years ago in 1609 um we don't know that they were particularly successful Shakespeare's most successful plays were quickly reprinted showing that there was a demand for them the vogue for writing sonnets had slightly faded away by 1609 and the sonnets were not reprinted in Shakespeare's lifetime they weren't included in the great first folio of his collected works it was only later really a lot later perhaps particularly the 19th and 20th centuries that the sonnets came to the center of people's thinking about Shakespeare and I guess the reason for that is because they are great love poems and they seem to be great autobiographical poems they seem somehow as when Wordsworth said to be the key that unlocks Shakespeare's heart now in our discussion we may well start teasing away at that idea but the obvious answer to the question why the sonnets are still celebrated still read today is that there is no other collection of love poetry that covers the full spectrum of the experience of love with such intensity and with with such memorable phrases I mean there are so many books that have taken their their titles from Shakespeare science the English translation of Marcel Proust great novel remembrance of things past that's from the sonnets or the Darling Buds of May huge numbers of phrases that have just people have grabbed them as being somehow crystallizing thing about a particular moment in the experience of life it sounds like the Sonics have filled into our sub consciousness and are our way of thinking about love the Stanley I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about why though that's taken so long to come about the availability of the solids yes a long time partly because Jonathan says they were not I think a success on their first publication in 1609 of the first publication of course one or two of them had appeared in print for two of them in the morning all attached at pilgrim but we do know that some sonnets had by Shakespeare Heath had been written by 1598 when the anthologies Francis Mears referred to them and of course he saw some perhaps worth remembering there are quite a lot of manuscripts of Shakespeare sonnets not in his own hand or less but there are at least 40 manuscript versions of Shakespeare sonnets between 1600 and 1640 which was referred a later I think which is quite interesting because they did get transcribed into people's notebooks their commonplace books as they were called but they that the body of the 1609 Polhemus nose that says was not reprinted in the poem the solids were reprinted in a garbled form in 1640 by a publisher called John Benson a publisher wrote a fraudulent volume which included things that were not by Shakespeare and also which garbled the solids indistinctly partly by giving some of them the appearance of being addressed to male to a female even though in fact they were some of them addressed to a male first yeah that doesn't change some of the pronouns yes – sonnets together yes he made longer poems you also gave some of them title yells I liked to his mistress and so that she I think if I remember rightly he calls a solitude which refers to the addresses prick a poem addressed to his miss some privacy flying in the face of strong evidence yes come back to frontiers this is that word sugar sugar describe your solid certainly Shakespeare's sugar to sonnets among his private friends and you know from sugared and private these poems do move towards a really compelling sexuality which bends and recognizes in 16 years me sugared are sweet mellifluous these were words that everybody really used to describe shakespeare's poetic language in some of his more sub romantic plays as well as in the sights and there are very interesting links between some of the sonnets and some of the relatively early plays and Love's Labour's Lost for instance written probably about 1595 is a play that's full of sonnets and it's about people writing love sonnets and competing yes and I'm Romeo Juliet of course when Romeo and Juliet first meet their words weave together in the form of a sonnet so that sense of the the sweet love poetry of Shakespeare it was it was there and well known in his plays it was also there very well known in his very successful narrative love poem Venus and Adonis but the extra dimension as you say for the sonnets is this idea of them being circulated among his private forum yes does that be circulated upon what does it even mean to address to address his intimate yes his soloist among his private friends she could source by the way the phrase has already been used by Richard Banfield a few years before I suspect it was just a source of cliche I did it we should regard Frances me as as big in any sense a real noisy computers but he's very commonplace in the things that he writes in that it's the earliest reference we have to the service to education having written song that's written science and also it shows us a son is in sick in manuscript form and reminds us that shakey was writing these papers over many years before their publication yes it is me versus one as they can the interesting but also problematic thing of things about a lot of the love poetry of the period that that very often that kind of poetry wasn't written so much for the public audience for the bookstore distant Paul's but it was circulated to a sort of elite to kind of carry audience if you think of the other great love that poets of the period the only poet I think in English language who sort of is Shakespeare's equal in the intensity of his love poetry that would of course be John Donne but John Duns great love poems were nearly all circulated in manuscript and only published quite a while after his death is that's true but of course it's also fair to say isn't it that the solid sequences and I did regard shakes bliss as a song of sequences but the solid sequences of 1591 on words in about 1596 beginning with Philip Sidney's astral and Stella are much more through-composed much more on fears volumes that were intended eventually at least for publication even though it's it in this case there was a private a little bit to them to I think this is one of things that make me feel very strongly that Shakespeare's is a collection of poems written probably at different times yeah rather than a sonnet sequence in the sense that many of the earlier ones clearly and in fact since they're much more like done Madonna's ghost comes because the the thing that is so strikingly different from the other sonnet secrets published at the time is the fact that the person addressed never has a name as you say that the genre I mean obviously the genre goes back in the Italian Renaissance to Petrarch so it's flower but in England that the sort of the key volume the most famous volume is Sir Philip Sidney's astra filter Stella the poet calls himself Astra Phil calls his beloved mistress Stella and then just about every poet starts writing a secret Samuel Daniel writes it to Delia and someone else to lychee Cecilia died oh and Diana and so it goes on Celia and Delia but but of course the infuriating fascinating thing about Shakespeare's sonnets is so many of them say you know I am making you immortal i'm immortalizing you but he never gets the name or even a sort of mythological name for the you in question so we feel like we're agreeing very much that Shakespeare's science represent diverse sonnets for various occasions a sort of rattle back rather than anything which I think that's right and what might follow from that which I think is very interesting is that we may need to think of them being addressed to a number of different peoples there's a long history of people trying to identify the lovely boy and the dark lady who seemed to be the to address seas of the solids but recent work on the language of the poems comparing them to the language of Shakespeare's plays has suggested that some of the sonnets have a language characteristic of relatively early Shakespeare the mid 1590s the period of Love's Labour's Lost Romeo and Juliet Venus and Adonis is his narrative poem others of them have very very strong linguistic connections to later plays plays of the period early in King James's reign after 1603 and indeed the the of all the perms the one that seems most likely to be sort of dateable in terms of referring to a particular event it's 106 is it or 108 about the eclipse of the Moon which certainly seems to suggest something about the death of Queen Elizabeth the time of King James the Anna Stanley has said we know some of the poems belong to this earlier appear well there's one you just referred to after all has been a bone of contention once a via the key phrase what is the key phrase I'm walking around is just reminders should I read it yeah not mine own fears nor the prophetic soul of the wide world dreaming on things to come can yet the lease of my true control supposed as forfeit to a confined doom the mortal moon hath her eclipses endured and a sad August mocked their own presage in certainties now crown themselves assured and peace proclaims olives of endless age now with the drops of this most balmy time my love looks fresh and death to me subscribes since spite of him I'll live in this poor I'm while he insults or dull and speechless tribes and thou in this shalt find thy monument when tyrants crisps and tombs of brass are spent and its thus a dog is not their Empress age in certainties now cram ourselves assured and peace proclaims always of Emma's age which we can helps us to follow this the dating sonnet yeah but paradoxes there's at least three different a mortal moon eclipse has been linked for example to the Armada it's been linked to the grand climacteric and when Queen Elizabeth was 67 years old and also more plausibly I think and I suspend it Charles agrees it's been linked with the the death of Elizabeth and the coming to the throne of James the first it was particularly proud of his peacemaking activities especially as of course Shakespeare in his Acting Company that they were actually there when the peace treaty that was signed at some house took place because of course all through Queen Elizabeth's reign you know Shakespeare's a war poet but King James brings brings peace but I'll say I'm interested in these these recent sort of stylistic analysis comparing the vocabulary because the the idea that maybe some of these are Elizabethan sonnets and some a Jacobi and sonnets like I find very very intriguing it isn't shaking it also means that what we've got here 154 poems written probably over more than 20 years and if we if we if we accept what and ruger was arguing in 1972 about signs 145 being maybe Shakespeare's earliest my father my boy then that really just widens open what what these represent in Shakespeare's creative output yes so kind of way if not footnotes that that diminishes abut their documents which can be set along scientists his ongoing canon of work and which could be connected to it to help think that yeah that the one you've just referred to fascinating they actually puns on the name of Hathaway I think that's a very very strong arguments about me fortified for that being Shakespeare's earliest surviving poem one written possibly during his courtship when he was only twenty eighteen he sticks out like a sore thumb because it's the only collection in tetraman yes it's not as far as stress line and it's a it's not me I'd also been evidence finest certainly so a collection rather than a sequence sugared from the time period and connecting up with with John Donne has been personal poems to address these in Shakespeare's case whose identities are lost a time and then from sugar though we have this this these private friends and I I really am interested at the point at which critics become anxious about the sexuality of these poems because they do I think these poems get underground for almost two centuries yeah they're going to ground partly simply for publication reasons because they were not it included in the food non of to is not that's entirely a collection of plays and partly because I think there were other difficult problems I think we should acknowledge that some of them are very difficult problems like some of them was and also I think the solids were out of fashion by the time they were published it is surprising because Shakespeare himself was at the height of his was slightly towards the end of his career whether when when they were published but yes I think sexuality has got a lot to do with especially the late the late 18th century after cue towards the poems there are ridiculous rejections on the grounds that how can we want our shakes I can only believe our Shakespeare address love poems to a male person I mean George Stevens the Asian citrus caller had the ridiculous notion that the sonnets were all addressed to Queen Elizabeth even the one that refers to the to the beloved's prick he is considered not as your female announcer there seems to be a little askew I mean what's curious is you get with the advent of a really first good edition of the sonnets since 69 with Malone's edition 780 you get that watershed of the critical anxiety with the Romantic poets and how they're reading the sonnets and they become personal autobiographical accounts at the same time as they have this anxiety of sexuality surrounding them is that yeah i know i think i think that's right i mean they for say for John Keats they were they were tremendously important through the 18th century really down to the time of Wordsworth the sonnets that were sort of most admired and imitated in England were those of John Milton which were very public poems often on political subjects are written in a different form with a different structure from Shakespeare's sonnets the Milton ensoniq divides with an eight and a six the Sun is always has 14 lines whereas the Shakespearean pattern is the four 4-4-2 formation three quatrains with their rhymes and then the rhyming couplet at the end and it was really only with Keats and his contemporaries that the Shakespearean formed was revived and imitated and for Keats you know a great passionate love poet they they were incredibly intense personal love poems and it was a friend of kids actually my uncle Charles Brown who wrote in I think was 1838 a book called Shakespeare's autobiographical poems which I think was the first sustained attempt to map the story of the sonnets on to Shakespeare's life because he even a great poet to reject in the idea that Shakespeare could possibly address such killings to a man who was very very very adamant about that I think it's fair to say isn't it this is an enormously varied collection of poems see they range from very lyrical beautiful person ones that are best known I suppose over 80 stay there love some of them are love poems which any young man is likely to want to read to his beloved but others are very naughty difficult metaphysical poems and I think the variety of the poems is something it needs to be stressed most people read them I suppose not as a whole but in anthologies in connections they hear some that's like 116 let me know yeah yes and also you see that is a poem which is often read of weddings for example let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments as a language of the prayer-book any lawful impediment yes it does but also it's among the sonnets which a lot of people believe to be addressed to a male of us which is typical of them with ambivalence of a lot of the poems and this is one of the areas in which I think it's damaging to make this supposition that the first 126 poems are all addressed to or concern a male rather than that there is I'm interested in this because that the one of the sort of recurring motifs in the side is a sort of battle between a very intense spiritual bond and a physical sexual bond yeah please is it wonderful for where he talks about his bad angel his good engine in his youth right channel of two loves I have of comfort and despair um and it it seems to be one way of possibly reading the sonnets is to sort of step back from the idea of seeking an autobiographical narrative in them and think about them as a kind of drama in which the the figure of the youth and the the sort of extraordinary intense spiritual bond between Shakespeare and the fair youth symbolizes the kind of spiritual aspects of love the marriage of true minds whereas the salat specifically about being in my mistress's bed and often then being very disgusted by sex symbolize the physical aspect of love and it could actually be that we need to think of the addresses of the sonnets as almost like dramatic characters on one representing love in its sexual aspect the other in its spiritual what do you think I don't think we talk about the characters because I think there's a multiplicity of characters here I think there is as you said yes there's a great tension of hurt sometimes between spiritual love and physical desire which he's conscious of and which throws himself at times into a sense of sin and these are the poems of a man with a conscience some of them are clearly the poems whether we believe it to be share to themself or just a fictional character that he's adopting they're clearly the poems of somebody who is a bit disgusted with his sexuality even at the same time as the excerpts in 140 variants the most extraordinary of the sonnets which is one of the most physically explicit poems in the language I suppose love is too young to know what conscience is yet who does not conscious is born of love then gentle cheater it's not my amiss less guilty of my faults thy sweet self proof for thou refraining me I do betray my nobler part to my gross body as treason my soul does tell my body that he may triumph in love fresh there is no father reason but rising at thy name Duff point out thee as his triumphal prize proud of this pride he is contented thy poor Drudge to be to stand in thy affair for by thy side no want of conscience hold it that I call her a love for whose dear love I rise and for the I in that last I could be the penis of the poet rising and falling it is an extraordinary explicit but but you see again it has this dichotomy of the soul and the body my soul does tell my body that he may triumph in love there's a there's a tension here which is troubling to the poet but I see I think is why people in many ways that misclassified the sonnets by linking them to those rather pretty sonic sequences of the 1515 90s which of course he parodies in my mouth my mistress eyes are nothing like the sodomy 30 is a parody of that sort of sonnet once you start talking about you know the debate between the soul and the body these kinds of puns on the conscience and the will of the body and all upon their own pride and I and so on again that's taking me straight back to the metaphysical poet's the junk John Donne I think that's where that's the condition we need to read the man a metaphysical idea if you didn't bring sexuality to that poem you could hear the doctrine of the resurrection of the body the flesh that rises at the name and paces forth he uses a phrase pace forth in in some in 55 as well and of course Shakespeare names himself yeah not to suspect a good deal it seems to be of autobiographical residence in these poems the the word will occurs 13 times I think in its on 134 and it clearly pardon for my name is will if I for my name is world and as his chicks was there but it also suggests that the a man who is involved it with them with both the woman and with the persona of the poet also has the living will because can we can we challenge some of these critical phrases are so convenient to use around the sides like the woman the young man yeah I really take issue with that sense of assuming that these are fixed identities which can be charted over a number of poems because I don't think they can be I think if where we really stare at these poems and ask ourselves you know can we say that this is addressed to an imaginary male or female is actually the imagined addressee of the sonnet not reveal which it isn't for most of them you know what are we left with just a handful of poems where the gender is is utterly alien and among those you know differently described she's never described as the dark lady for example he's only a young man and a boy which is different to a young man on on a couple of occasions in these poems and and I find that really really fascinating that somehow and I think it's rooted back to the Romantic period with that with it with the first great edition of Malone because spelling out these relationships and creating a story with these poems somehow those have laid down critical commonplaces which you just remain in the ether around these poems and are convenient but only helpful to a degree and I think I think somehow imprison these parents in a way we think about the mache Keeler's imagination and his wider yeah I do agree with that but I think we don't want to go to the opposite extreme and sort of fragmented them down and suggest that you know every single poem is autonomous and that there aren't connections because there are sequences where there would be maybe two sonnets in little groups I mean I'm particularly interest in the group from sort of 78 to 286 well it's clearly talking about the idea of other poets seeking the whether it's the favored the patronage of the love is not quite clear but but there's a definite sense there that like some bees around the honey pot there are a number of poets who are interested in some particular figure a patron a potential a potential mother it's you know he's wonderfully ambiguous about that but that seems to be a group he doesn't introduce a character or characters of the rival poet or poets that no mention of patrons but surely raises the question of the dedication to these pearls curious dedication very curious documents which is not signed by chips where it bears the initials at the end of it tt Thomas Thorpe now when Shakespeare was writing his great poem was venison and earnest in the rape of Lucretia he did dedicate his poems to a specific person a person who was portrait is on the wall of the room in which we're speaking now the Earl of Southampton Henry Henry Slee the 3rd Earl of Southampton and Shakespeare clearly we had a close relationship to Henry recently and during 1593 and 1594 which is the time when we have good reason to believe at least quite a lot of the sonnets were written because as you would say this is the time when they occur in plays of the memorial closely to date to that period like it doesn't mean does it though that all of the poems which might be addressed to a man necessarily are written to a patron I know indeed I think it's important that the dedications doesn't even say that the poems were written to this wh-wh is the only begetter of these insuring plants now what does magetta mean it might mean simply the only person who procured the man is pretty it might to the inspirer but again it's one of the great mysteries around the sonnets and of course it might mean the author because it has been suggested I suggested in Victorian times and since quite plausibly that it's actually a misprint and it should be WS or WS I'm using that's more plausible than that I do so William Shakespeare dedicated to the pies are prior to publish because the notion of a writer as the begetter of them and as a living poet is mentioned in the dedication as well isn't it and of course it's Victorian times that sees the whole kind of literary investigation the mock investigation by Oscar Wilde yeah those an identity for mr. wh that's really Hughes a by actor in Shakespeare's language in a kind of detective fiction short stories on her yeah I was just gonna say that ever since Oscar well before Oscar Wilde I mean back to back to the early 19th century the idea that the the the addressee was synonymous with master WH and might be identified with either in rear is Lee the Earl of Southampton or William William that main will Herbert the Pembroke I mean those theories have been around for a long time and new theories keep you know keep keep coming out I notice just the other week a new book was published suggesting that wh in the addressee actually is Prince Henry the son of King James and growl Marcus the great Bob Dylan scholar he has a new book coming up with some other candidate I mean it just you know it's endless gentlemen we find ourselves in an exhibition called Shakespeare found a life portrait and it is in some ways an ideal context to be talking about the sonics we've hit upon the identity of mr. W WH on the wall opposite me is a portrait of mr. WH potentially Henry Rissa villa Southampton and I think what what this does is it allows us to think of the solids at least two of them this exhibition allows us to individually as biographical poem and you know when you look at the portrait of Henry's later self Hampton and Reed sonic 20 at the same time which begins a woman's face with nature's own hand painted as thou the master mistress of my passion somehow the poem and the poet and the painting become imaginatively engaged because he does look incredibly feminine in the picture and it was only in 2002 that he was proposed properly thoroughly that it was a portrait of a man and be the Earl of Southampton really that's an example of how with you know looking at a sanyasis individual marriage you can read them differently biographically yeah and another painting in the exhibition is a South Hamptons mother the the age age of 13 and son is three has the line thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee calls back the lovely April of her prime and when you put the portrait of his mother alongside the portrait of a song you can see as they reflected in a mirror a glass one portrait the oh calling back the lovely April of the prime age thirteen of of of the mother as you compare the pictures so it's it's a really rich example of how imaginative connections can be make in all sorts of ways with these poems it's part of their power it's part of their enduring appeal in the image in the another part of the exhibition there's a an artistic installation by George Chakravarthy commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Shakespeare Birthplace trust as a response to the exhibition and what George's installation does is it plays fast and loose with this whole idea of fixed identity poet patron it was as a response to the exhibition as well as to the 40th anniversary of these remarkable poems Donna Johnson yeah happily and it's it's not one that is immediately obviously passionate love poem I sort of you know I am in love and on cloud nine it's actually a code about the sorts of the kind of intense difficulties of communication in love and the way that Trust doesn't always work well it's it's hard to explain it's easier to read it's a hundred and thirty-eight when my love swears that she is made of truth I do believe her though I know she lies that she might think me some untutored youth unlearned in the world's false subtleties thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young although she knows my days are past the best simply I credit her false speaking tongue on both sides thus is simple truth suppressed but wherefore says she not she is unjust and wherefore say not I that I am old Oh loves best habit is in seeming trust and age in love love's not to have years told therefore I lie with her and she with me and in our faults by lies we flattered be I mean the reason I I think this is such a great poem is partly because the the argument a solid is self and an argument the argument works so beautifully in relation to the structure it's got the three quatrains of four lines each setting up and are part of the argument then taking it forward and then the rounding off in the couplet and at the same time this fantastic wordplay in it and obviously the key work play here is lie in the sense of not tell the truth but also line sense of lying width and hence make love to but what I love most about it is the it's extraordinary realism about what what human beings are like and how as we grow in our in our relationships in our understanding of love we have to go beyond the simple joys of shall I Hathi to a Thursday thou art more lovely we have we have to accept that maybe there are necessary untruths or things not spoken simple truth is not what it's all about love is much more complicated and there are self-deceptions – that's what's the rule about the couplet yes that he's acknowledging that they're kidding themselves you know while they are making laughs yeah in terms of the playfulness of context biography it's about a woman rather than a dress – woman there's nothing dark or black about the woman and if you lately – Shakespeare's other work and it could be Anthony talking about Cleopatra as a kind of playful suggestion of thinking about these poems in different contexts yeah there's no doubt that you know Shakespeare's above all began as an actor he became a dramatist he's always thinking of situations in chromatic terms yeah there's like one end of a telephone conversation there's also sort of a quiz that but that is one of the things that make it very tempting to see them but autobiographically I think there are things in these poems that would mean nothing to your own Murray purchaser of a bollywood poetry I mean a poem like Shia compare the is a lyric poem which anybody might enjoy and could be included in anthology of Elizabethan poetry in Shakespeare's time or in ours but some of these others do seem to me to be intensely personal poems which are meaningless unless you have the other side of the picture now admittedly this does relate to the possibility that there are sort of sketches of speeches in place that they are Angelo in May a measure for example would have could have speak some of the asanas it seems to me or trying to center on us and cressida but at the same time it's one of the reasons why I think if it didn't particularly want them to published you see I don't think he did I think these were these are published as Shakespeare's sonnets not my solos by William Shakespeare but Shakespeare's sonnets published by titi and the publisher Thomas Thorpe and it's as if he's newly never before imprinted he sort of said here they are in last you know it's like a scandal magformers hey how you have read these which we've all heard about but actually you know we knew this may be scandalous yeah I mean there's a scholarly debate we should say about whether the publication was authorized or unauthorized I'm convinced they're unauthorized yes four hundred years on how do you see responses to the sonnets shaping up in the next few years how would you encourage people to read these poems how they appreciate a poetry of the ways of reading criticism of them I should encourage them to read the poems as a miscellaneous collection of poems and not as a sonnet secrets it is true that there are many sequences it's true that the first group of poems have the common theme of encouraging someone to marry and not to much to marry actually is to be get an heir it's interesting it's not just to beget a baby but to beget somebody and there but at the same time it does seem to me we need to dismiss the old critical cliches the old commonplace ideas about the young man it's astonishing how many responsible critics still use that phrase as if they're all about one young man and similarly with a dark lady whereas thing is only about seven of their last group a poem such refer to the world is being dark so I think one of the things we need to do that criticism will do in the future is to freeze off some of the cliches which derived partly from generic considerations from the idea that these are a sonnet sequence like the earlier sort of sequences by Daniel or Spencer and so they're not I think they're shakespeare's sonnets not the sonnets address to anybody or in pinnacle Johnson how'd you like to send them to the present into the future I'd like people to read them slowly I as finally suggest to read them individually perhaps to have them by their bed and learn them by heart it's the best way of getting the tower you know actors know Shakespeare because they learn his lines I think learning a few of the sonnets would not do anybody any harm and as I've sort of suggested and hinted at various points in our discussion I think we need to sort of remap them and again this is similar to what Stanley is saying and put them in the context not of the Elizabethan sonnet sequence but of the works for the metaphysical poets of John Donne later around remodel thank you very much Thank You Sammy thank you you


  1. I find that discussion here indicating that each sonnet should be considered separately and that adjacent sonnts may have been written at different time a rather odd. They are PLAINLY grouped. In some cases the meaning flows through from one to another in such a way that the adjacent sonnets do not stand alone.
    But, aside from that, the first seventeen sonnets are very closely associated in meaning. They have only one theme, even though it is expressed in diverse ways, and attacked from different directions.
    The theme is shallow; almost unbelievably shallow!
    You are sooo beautiful. Your beauty will fade. The only way to preserve it is to have a child.

    Got that?
    This is not, young man, regardless of how much you love your life and freedom, you need to marry and beget kids. For why?
    1. You need an heir to your estate
    2. You are titled; someone must inherit the honours bestowed on your noble family.
    3. Someone needs to be there to comfort your old age.
    4. Your parents want some grandkids, before they die!
    5. There is real joy in having children.

    None of this is said. The sole message for SEVENTEEN SONNETS is "Have a child, to preserve your own physical beauty"

    It reads to me as if some bored English lecturer came up with that ridiculous theme and got all seventeen of his students to hand in a sonnet on the given subject.
    They ARE varied, but only in approach, not in theme. They MAY carry some beautiful lines and minor concepts, but NO-ONE is going to get anything deep and meaningful out of the first seventeen. You would do better to go online and search how to paint your fingernails, and wax your pubes.

  2. Why and how did the word f*** come into the English or any other language. Can't you people use other words in respect of the man about whom we're listening? I bet no one who used that word below could rewrite their thought without using it.

  3. I study literature and it's pretentious as fuck. I regret studying it. I enjoy literature and read profusely, but studying it is a whole different kettle of fish. These people, less so the guy on the left, but they're scared to absolute death of missing a 'possible' interpretation. Shakespeare expressed himself through poetry, whether autobiographical or not. You can't get poetry so beautiful without it being grounded in the self, but I believe some of it is autobiographical and some is addressed to nobody, a kind of anonymous apostrophe. Settled, it makes sense and there's evidence in the sonnets. Plus he discusses the nature of poetry in some of them, which isn't fictional. A lot of these wild interpretations, cleopatra, or pandora's box or some shit, it doesn't lead back to such far fetched stuff, the guy just expressed himself through writing. Now settle the fuck down and just enjoy it, instead of worrying about missing some possible loose interpretation seeing how far removed it can be. Feel like fucking newton or somebody pissed off with useless scholasticism, cause that's all this is.

  4. So autobiographical showing the life blood of Edward De vere obviously,all over the sonnets.These "Stratfordian tourist board" propagandist's are shaming the real authors memory and creating a lot of unnecessary hot air ,Jonathan Bate's books on Shakespeare are an exercise in snobbishness and bias for sure.

  5. Fascinating lecture that gave me light to understand the overall theme of the sonnets is the whole espectrum of love. That Sonnets are not a sequence. So happy to hear again Jonathan Bates who I have followed in Future Learn

  6. Why would you say that "we don't know" who wrote the works? The historical record quite clearly says that Will of Stratford wrote the works. Scholars don't arrive at this conclusion willy-nilly. All of the greatest, most talented, and most popular Elizabethan playwrights were from the middle classes, and a lot of the evidence has been lost. But we certainly have enough to establish that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, despite what silly people say on the internet.

  7. Recent work by neutral scholars have established that the plays are probably earlier than previously thought. Same with anonymous writing from the period. It was much more common than we knew. I read recently a book from around WWI where the plays attributed to writers were done so well after their deaths, by reading initials on the play titles, or by matching the plays with other known works. I think eliminating Oxford because of the dating of plays is a mistake. His life and the works match.

  8. The exact dates can be pretty well dated, otherwise we wouldn't date them as such. My own area of interest, Dante's Divine Comedy, we know more about Dante the person than we do about Shakespeare and we can't say with any certainty when Dante wrote his master work. There are dates of first publications of each of the three parts but other than that there is a black hole of nothing. There are no copies of Dante's original, were did the text for the Divine Comedy come from? Same question really.

  9. Mr. Lemex, the exact dates of composition are speculative. They were dated to correspond to the Stratford Man, which makes for "circular thinking". Hamlet was referred to as early as 1592. So how do orthodox Stratfordians solve that problem? With an Ur-Hamlet by Kyd, who associated with Oxford. Only problem is that there are no copies. The Tempest has nothing that happened after 1604 in it, and neither does MacBeth. No natural event after 1604 is mentioned.

  10. Except that Edward de Vere died before the last places have been dated, The Tempest could not have been written until 1610 because of explorers accounts that are the clearly the main sources for it in terms of ideas, De Vere died in 1604. And the same mind that wrote The Tempest also wrote the plays in the rest of the Shakespeare cannon. You say there is no hard evidence, there is no hard evidence that Virgil wrote The Aeneid.

  11. Is that a question? As a 14 year old kid, you have access to infinitely more literature than Stratford Will. In his times, there were no public libraries. He grew up without having an English Dictionary to refer to.

  12. Why assume the poet sought permanent anonymity? In order to understand them, it would help if we could match the poems with the poet. By using the Stratford mask, the task becomes impossible. The poet says he's over 40, is obviously someone of high rank, based upon his vocabulary and mind-set, and is disgraced, lame, and trying to get a Fair-haired Youth to marry. The fact the famously fair-haired 3rd Earl of Southampton was tentatively engaged to De Vere's daughter explains those sonnets. DIG?

  13. Why care about who wrote Shakespears works? Just enjoy the works. If William Shakespear did not write them allow the person who put them in his name the anonymity that he/she wanted.

  14. There is no hard evidence that identifies William Shaksper, which suggests that your mind is open. I recommend that you read up on the life of Edward de Vere, as it is quite interesting, regardless of your position on the Shake-speare Authorship Question. all the best, mrLemex

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