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Shakespeare’s Sonnets

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1 Shakespeare’s Sonnets
ENGL 203 Dr. Fike

2 Points of Interest The sonnet was invented by Dante but popularized by Petrarch ( ).  It was Petrarch who fixed the sonnet's form and content:  14 lines; iambic pentameter; a two-part organization--8 then 6 lines, octave then sestet, question then answer, problem then resolution; rhyme scheme ABBAABBA + CDECDE or CDCCDC or CDEDCE.  Although Chaucer translated a Petrarchan sonnet, it was Wyatt who brought the Italian sonnet into English. (“Geoffrey Chaucer [ ] wrote Canticus Troili in his Troilus and Criseyde as a version of Francesco Petrarca's Canzioniere 132 Sonnet,” Surrey introduced the English form of the sonnet with rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.  There is one other main kind of sonnet—the Spenserian sonnet, with the following rhyme scheme:  ABAB BCBC CDCD EE.  Look up the following words in your handbook:  iambic pentameter, meter, scansion, sonnet, quatrain, and couplet.

3 Points of Interest There are 154 sonnets in Shakespeare's sequence.
Sonnets are written to a young man (an unconventional audience).  Of these, 21, 78-80, and concern a rival poet.  Sonnets are addressed to a Dark Lady (a more conventional audience).  Sonnets 153 and 154 concern Cupid.

4 Points of Interest Shakespeare's sonnets 99, 126, and 145 are aberrations:  99 has 15 lines, 126 has 6 couplets, and 145 is tetrameter instead of pentameter.

5 Points of Interest Shakespeare's sonnets were written singly and in small groups for friends and for his patron, the Earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley—pronounced RIZ-ly).  Most were written between When the plague hit London in , the theaters were closed, and Shakespeare turned to writing poems to make money. Sonnets 138 and 144 were published in an anthology in 1599, but the whole sequence was not published until 1609.  The sonnets’ organization was set not by Shakespeare but by an editor named Thomas Thorpe.

6 Points of Interest Ladies in the sonnet tradition were ideally beautiful and cruel in their chastity (e.g., Petrarch’s Laura).  Shakespeare reverses this convention, particularly in Sonnet 130 (CXXX).  Because his love interest is not the blue-eyed blonde goddess of Petrarch's sonnets, we say that Shakespeare's sequence is "anti-Petrarchan."  Although the Dark Lady is not conventionally beautiful, he is obsessed with her because his lust has overcome his reason and has taken control of his will (i.e., his volition; but “will” also means genitals, and it is the poet’s name—he frequently puns on his first name; see Sonnet 135 (CXXXV): “Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will, / And Will to boot, and Will in overplus”).

7 Points of Interest The major themes in Shakespeare's sonnets include the following:  the tyranny of lust the value of mutuality and of a cherishing kind of love in relationships life's transience along with its permanence-in-mutability and immortality through poetry, progeny, love, and the Christian afterlife.

8 Theme: Immortality How can one achieve immortality?
What is Shakespeare saying in Sonnets 18 &19 (XVIII & XIX)? What answer does Sonnet 116 (CXVI) suggest? What answer does Sonnet 146 (CXLVI) suggest?

9 Group Activity: What Is the Romantic Situation?
In what romantic situation does Shakespeare find himself?  What kind of love does Shakespeare have for the young man?  Is it the same as the Dark Lady's love for the two of them?  Draw lines to complete the following diagram (next slide). Key sonnets are 20, 86, , and 152.

10 Chart Shakespeare Wife Young man Dark lady Rival poet Husband

11 The Love Triangle Shakespeare (Wife) Young man Dark Lady
Young man             Dark Lady Rival Poet                         (Husband?)

12 Shakespeare and His Wife
He married Anne Hathaway in 1582: he was 18, she was 26, and she was pregnant. Shakespeare moved to London at some point in the late 1580s or early 1590s. He surfaced there in 1592 (Robert Greene badmouthed him in print—next slide). He lived there until he retired a quarter century later. In other words, he lived mostly apart from his family for his entire career.

13 Here Is Greene’s 1592 Remark
“[F]or there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.” Upstart crow: a novice with no university education 3 Henry VI: “tiger’s heart wrapp’d in a woman’s hide.” Jack of all trades

14 Shakespeare and the Young Man
When the plague forced officials to close the theaters, Shakespeare turned to the young man for patronage. Shakespeare urges him to procreate in Sonnet 12 (XII): “When I do count the clock that tells the time.” Their friendship was most likely Platonic, as Shakespeare suggests in Sonnet 20 (XX): “Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.”

15 Scan These Line When I do count the clock that tells the time.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.

16 Answer When I do count the clock that tells the time.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. Boldface = accented syllables Terms: iamb, iambic pentameter, quatrain, couplet

17 Shakespeare and the Dark Lady
The lady has a dark complexion (possibly Emilia Lanier, whose father, Baptiste Bassano, was Italian and a court musician; she plays the spinet in Sonnet 128). She was possibly the mistress of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, who helped sponsor Shakespeare’s theater company. This explains how Shakespeare might have met her. She is married (Lanier was her married name): Sonnet 152 (next slide) says that she is breaking her “bed-vow” and that she is “twice forsworn.” The latter means that she is cheating on her husband with Shakespeare and on Shakespeare with the young man.

18 Sonnet 152 In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn, But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing, In act thy bed-vow broke and new faith torn, In vowing new hate after new love bearing. But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse thee, When I break twenty? I am perjured most; For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee And all my honest faith in thee is lost, For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness, Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy, And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness, Or made them swear against the thing they see;    For I have sworn thee fair; more perjured I,    To swear against the truth so foul a lie!

19 The Dark Lady Her appearance: Sonnet 130 (CXXX): “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the son.” Her nature: Sonnet 144 (CXLIV): “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair.” Shakespeare is wacko over her: Sonnet 129 (CXXIX): “Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame.” Sonnet 147: “My love is as a fever,” etc. (next slide). But he knows that the young man has her and that she has him: Sonnets 42 and 134. 42: “That thou hast her, it is not all my grief, / And yet it may be said I loved her dearly” (two slides forward). 134: “So, now I have confessed that he is thine, / And I myself am mortgaged to thy will” (three slides forward). Shakespeare likens her to a whore: She is “the bay where all men ride” and “the wide world’s common place” (Sonnet 137—four slides forward). Shakespeare advises the young man to be careful of appearances in Sonnet 94 (XCIV): “They that have power to hurt and will do none.”

20 Sonnet 147 My love is as a fever, longing still For that which longer nurseth the disease, Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill, The uncertain sickly appetite to please. My reason, the physician to my love, Angry that his prescriptions are not kept, Hath left me, and I desperate now approve Desire is death, which physic did except. Past cure I am, now reason is past care, And frantic-mad with evermore unrest; My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are, At random from the truth vainly express'd;    For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright,    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

21 Sonnet 42 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. Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye: Thou dost love her, because thou knowst I love her; And for my sake even so doth she abuse me, Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her. If I lose thee, my loss is my love's gain, And losing her, my friend hath found that loss; Both find each other, and I lose both twain, And both for my sake lay on me this cross:    But here's the joy; my friend and I are one;    Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.

22 Sonnet 134 So, now I have confess'd that he is thine, And I myself am mortgaged to thy will, Myself I'll forfeit, so that other mine Thou wilt restore, to be my comfort still: But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free, For thou art covetous and he is kind; He learn'd but surety-like to write for me Under that bond that him as fast doth bind. The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take, Thou usurer, that put'st forth all to use, And sue a friend came debtor for my sake; So him I lose through my unkind abuse.    Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me:    He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.

23 Sonnet 137 Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes, That they behold, and see not what they see? They know what beauty is, see where it lies, Yet what the best is take the worst to be. If eyes corrupt by over-partial looks Be anchor'd in the bay where all men ride, Why of eyes' falsehood hast thou forged hooks, Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied? Why should my heart think that a several plot Which my heart knows the wide world's common place? Or mine eyes seeing this, say this is not, To put fair truth upon so foul a face?    In things right true my heart and eyes have erred,    And to this false plague are they now transferr'd.

24 The Rival Poet Sonnet 86 (LXXXVI): “Was it the proud full sail of his great verse.” “great verse”: Marlowe or Chapman? “that affable familiar ghost”: Chapman claimed to be inspired by Homer’s ghost. Marlowe was familiar with the formulae for conjuring spirits (think about Doctor Faustus).

25 The Rival Poet Marlowe makes the most sense:
He was a homosexual, and the young man was evidently sexually ambiguous (perhaps this is why Shakespeare urges him to marry and procreate). Marlowe was killed in a bar fight in 1593, which means that he would have dropped out of the sonnets at about the right time. But no one knows for sure. I myself suspect that the rival poet is an amalgam of various poets.

26 Transition We will now consider two sonnets and keep talking until the clock runs out.

27 Questions on Sonnet 73 To whom is the poet speaking?
What are the major images?  What is the significance of their order? What is the duration of each image? Why does Shakespeare say "yellow leaves, or none, or few," instead of "yellow leaves, or few, or none"? How is the nature of the third image different from that of the other two?  What is strange about the third image? How does the structure act out the poem's meaning? What is the difference between "That time of year thou mayst in me behold," and "In me thou see'st"?  Again, how does the poem act out its meaning? Paraphrase the couplet.  To what or whom does "that" refer?  Who will do the leaving?  What part of speech is "well"? 

28 Sonnet 73 That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou seest the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.    This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,    To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

29 Sonnet 116 How do you paraphrase the first two lines?  What are "true minds"?  How can love not be love?  Can you hear an echo of the marriage ceremony in the opening lines? How would you paraphrase lines 4-8? How would you paraphrase lines 9-12? What are the important images in this poem?  What do they suggest? Are there any sexual references here?  What is their purpose? Why does the couplet seem especially forceful?

30 Sonnet 116 Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom.    If this be error and upon me proved,    I never writ, nor no man ever loved END

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