shakespeare’s sonnets


  • Current linguistic analysis and historical evidence suggests, however, that the sonnets to the Dark Lady were composed first (around 1591–95), the procreation sonnets next,
    and the later sonnets to the Fair Youth last (1597–1603).

  • The two sonnets that were taken from Love’s Labour’s Lost, were, in the context of the play, written by comic characters who were intended to be seen as amateur sonneteers.

  • That the author’s name in a possessive form is part of the title sets it apart from all other sonnet collections of the time, except for one—Sir Philip Sidney’s posthumous
    1591 publication that is titled, Syr.

  • This small publication contained some spurious content falsely ascribed to Shakespeare; it also contained four sonnets that can be said to be by Shakespeare: Two of the four
    appear to be early versions of sonnets that were later published in the 1609 quarto (numbers 138 and 144); the other two were sonnets lifted from Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labour’s Lost.

  • (“O, never will I trust to speeches penned…”)[70][71] Henry V[edit] The epilogue at the end of the play Henry V is written in the form of a sonnet (“Thus far with rough, and
    all-unable pen…”).

  • When discussing or referring to Shakespeare’s sonnets, it is almost always a reference to the 154 sonnets that were first published all together in a quarto in 1609.

  • Here are the verses from Venus and Adonis:[33] A problem with identifying the fair youth with Southampton is that the most certainly datable events referred to in the Sonnets
    are the fall of Essex and then the gunpowder plotters’ executions in 1606, which puts Southampton at the age of 33, and then 39 when the sonnets were published, when he would be past the age when he would be referred to as a “lovely boy” or
    “fair youth”.

  • One popular theory is that he was Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton; this is based in part on the idea that his physical features, age, and personality might
    fairly match the young man in the sonnets.

  • [16] There is a later dedication to Herbert in another quarto of verse, Ben Jonson’s Epigrammes (1616), in which the text of Jonson’s dedication begins, “MY LORD, While you
    cannot change your merit, I dare not change your title … ” Jonson’s emphasis on Pembroke’s title, and his comment, seem to be chiding someone else who had the audacity to use the wrong title, as perhaps is the case in Shakespeare’s dedication.

  • Thorpe usually signed prefatory matter only if the author was out of the country or dead, which suggests that Shakespeare was not in London during the last stage of printing.

  • [2]: 89  Like the sonnets, “A Lover’s Complaint” also has a possessive form in its title, which is followed by its own assertion of the author’s name.

  • [64] In All’s Well that Ends Well, a partial sonnet is read, and Bertram comments.

  • [73] Romeo and Juliet[edit] Three sonnets are found in Romeo and Juliet: The prologue to the play (“Two households, both alike in dignity…”), the prologue to the second act
    (“Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie…”), and set in the form of dialogue at the moment when Romeo and Juliet meet: Much Ado About Nothing[edit] Two sonnets are mentioned in Much Ado About Nothing—sonnets by Beatrice and Benedick—and
    though not committed to paper, they were in Shakespeare’s mind.

  • [2]: 85  The first 17 poems, traditionally called the procreation sonnets, are addressed to the young man—urging him to marry and have children in order to immortalize his
    beauty by passing it to the next generation.

  • [1] However, there are six additional sonnets that Shakespeare wrote and included in the plays Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and Love’s Labour’s Lost.

  • [81] At the time Edward III was published, Shakespeare’s sonnets were known by some, but they had not yet been published.

  • [57] Gerald Hammond, in his book The Reader and the Young Man Sonnets, suggests that the non-expert reader, who is thoughtful and engaged, does not need that much help in
    understanding the sonnets: though, he states, the reader may often feel mystified when trying to decide, for example, if a word or passage has a concrete meaning or an abstract meaning; laying that kind of perplexity in the reader’s path for
    the reader to deal with is an essential part of reading the sonnets—the reader doesn’t always benefit from having knots untangled and double-meanings simplified by the experts, according to Hammond.

  • The earliest Elizabethan example of this two-part structure is Samuel Daniel’s Delia … with the Complaint of Rosamund (1592)—a sonnet sequence that tells the story of a woman
    being threatened by a man of higher rank, followed by the woman’s complaint.

  • The spoken prologue to the play, and the prologue to Act II are both written in sonnet form, and the first meeting of the star-crossed lovers is written as a sonnet woven
    into the dialogue.

  • [2] Instead of expressing worshipful love for an almost goddess-like yet unobtainable female love-object, as Petrarch, Dante, and Philip Sidney had done, Shakespeare introduces
    a young man.

  • This may suggest that Shakespeare planned to respond right away and correct the impression left by Jaggard’s book with Shakespeare’s own publication, or the entry may have
    been merely a “staying entry” not regarding an upcoming publication, but intended to prevent Jaggard from publishing any more sonnets by Shakespeare.

  • Jaggard’s piracy sold well—a second printing was quickly ordered—but it, including poetry falsely ascribed to Shakespeare, must have been a disappointment to Shakespeare’s

  • [80] The scene of the play that contains those quotations is a comic scene that features a poet attempting to compose a love poem at the behest of his king, Edward III.

  • The idea that the persona referred to as the speaker of Shakespeare’s sonnets might be Shakespeare himself, is aggressively repudiated by scholars; however, the title of the
    quarto does seem to encourage that kind of speculation.

  • The speaker expresses admiration for the Fair Youth’s beauty, and—if reading the sonnets in chronological order as published—later has an affair with the Dark Lady, then so
    does the Fair Youth.

  • This idea is expressed in Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.”, and that the sonnets were written to a young actor who played female roles in Shakespeare’s

  • In Henry V, the character of Chorus, who has addressed the audience a few times during the play, speaks the wide ranging epilogue/sonnet.

  • [60] They differ from the 154 sonnets published in the 1609, because they may lack the deep introspection, for example, and they are written to serve the needs of a performance,
    exposition or narrative.

  • [66] The sonnets that Shakespeare satirizes in his plays are sonnets written in the tradition of Petrarch and Sidney, whereas Shakespeare’s sonnets published in the quarto
    of 1609 take a radical turn away from that older style, and have none of the lovelorn qualities that are mocked in the plays.

  • It was considered an anonymous work, and that is how it was first published, but in the late 1990s it began to be included in publications of the complete works as co-authored
    by Shakespeare.

  • [27] Characters of the sonnets[edit] When analysed as characters, the subjects of the sonnets are usually referred to as the Fair Youth, the Rival Poet, and the Dark Lady.

  • Thomas Heywood protests this piracy in his Apology for Actors (1612), writing that Shakespeare was “much offended” with Jaggard for making “so bold with his name.”

  • There are other line-groupings as well, as Shakespeare finds inventive ways with the content of the fourteen line poems.

  • Thorpe would have been unlikely to have addressed a lord as “Mr”,[15] but there may be an explanation, perhaps that form of address came from the author, who wanted to refer
    to Herbert at an earlier time—when Herbert was a “younger man”.

  • But Shakespeare’s sonnets introduce such significant departures of content that they seem to be rebelling against well-worn 200-year-old traditions.

  • There is evidence in a note on the title page of one of the extant copies that the great Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn bought a copy in June 1609 for one shilling.

  • [45] • 1598 – Love’s Labour’s Lost is published as a quarto; the play’s title page suggests it is a revision of an earlier version.

  • It contains 154 sonnets, which are followed by the long poem “A Lover’s Complaint”.

  • [44] The young man of the sonnets and the young man of “A Lover’s Complaint” provide a thematic link between the two parts.

  • It is an example of a normal feature of the two-part poetic form, in which the first part expresses the male point of view, and the second part contrasts or complements the
    first part with the female’s point of view.

  • [28] Fair Youth[edit] The “Fair Youth” is the unnamed young man addressed by the devoted poet in the greatest sequence of the sonnets (1–126).

  • Context Shakespeare’s sonnets are considered a continuation of the sonnet tradition that swept through the Renaissance from Petrarch in 14th-century Italy and was finally
    introduced in 16th-century England by Thomas Wyatt and was given its rhyming metre and division into quatrains by Henry Howard.

  • [8] It has been suggested that Thorpe signing the dedication, rather than the author, might indicate that Thorpe published the work without obtaining Shakespeare’s permission.

  • The sonnets most commonly identified as the Rival Poet group exist within the Fair Youth sequence in sonnets 78–86.

  • It begins by allowing that the play may not have presented the story in its full glory.

  • “)–a form Sidney uses in six of the sonnets in Astrophel and Stella (Numbers 1, 6, 8, 76, and 102) These sonnets contain comic imperfections, including awkward phrasing, and
    problems with the meter.

  • Deliberate mis-gendering is also a feature of 17th-century commonplace books which include Sonnet 2, the most popular sonnet to appear in such collections.

  • The first one, revealed by Claudio, is described as “A halting sonnet of his own pure brain/Fashion’d to Beatrice”.

  • [58] During the eighteenth century, The Sonnets’ reputation in England was relatively low; in 1805, The Critical Review credited John Milton with the perfection of the English

  • [4] Other sonnets express the speaker’s love for the young man; brood upon loneliness, death, and the transience of life; seem to criticise the young man for preferring a
    rival poet; express ambiguous feelings for the speaker’s mistress; and pun on the poet’s name.

  • The title also appears every time the quarto is opened.

  • The final two sonnets are allegorical treatments of Greek epigrams referring to the “little love-god” Cupid.

  • The contents include a collection of 154 sonnets followed by the poem “A Lover’s Complaint”.

  • Or he may have been inspired by biographical elements in his life.

  • [41][42] It may be that the Rival Poet is a composite of several poets through which Shakespeare explores his sense of being threatened by competing poets.

  • His identity has been the subject of a great amount of speculation: That he was the author’s patron, that he was both patron and the “faire youth” who is addressed in the
    sonnets, that the “faire youth” is based on Mr. W.H.

  • his Astrophel and Stella, which is considered one of Shakespeare’s most important models.

  • [31] The Dark Lady[edit] Main article: Dark Lady (Shakespeare) The Dark Lady sequence (sonnets 127–152) is the most defiant of the sonnet tradition.

  • The play, printed in 1596, contains language and themes that also appear in Shakespeare’s sonnets, including the line: “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds”, which
    occurs in sonnet 94 and the phrase “scarlet ornaments”, which occurs in sonnet 142.

  • There is also a partial sonnet found in the play Edward III.

  • The first 126 are addressed to a young man; the last 28 are either addressed to, or refer to, a woman.

  • [32] It is also noted that Shakespeare’s 1593 poem Venus and Adonis is dedicated to Southampton and, in that poem a young man, Adonis, is encouraged by the goddess of love,
    Venus, to beget a child, which is a theme in the sonnets.

  • Often, at the end of the third quatrain occurs the volta (“turn”), where the mood of the poem shifts, and the poet expresses a turn of thought.

  • [2]: 44–45  In the play Love’s Labour’s Lost, the King and his three lords have all vowed to live like monks, to study, to give up worldly things, and to see no women.

  • Sidney’s title may have inspired Shakespeare, particularly if the “W.H.”


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