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The sonnets by William Shakespeare
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The sonnets (edition 1595)

by William Shakespeare

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4,86135952 (4.25)1 / 59
Member:Tafadhali
Title:The sonnets
Authors:William Shakespeare
Info:New York: Gramercy Books: Distributed by Outlet Book Co., 1991.
Collections:Your library, Favorites (inactive)
Rating:****
Tags:poetry, 16th century, british, read, favorite

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The Sonnets by William Shakespeare

  1. 20
    An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets by Stephen Booth (davidcla)
    davidcla: If you really, really get into the Sonnets, try this edition, which has the most complete and oddest notes. This edition also contains a facsimile of the 1609 text.
  2. 19
    Twilight / New Moon / Eclipse / Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (LCoale1)
    LCoale1: The emotions of Edward, Bella, and Jacob seem to come straight from these sonnets and, surprisingly, really helped me to understand Shakespeare's emotions and messages. Although the writing styles are about as different as can be, the themes are nearly identical - I swear I found paraphrases of lines of Shakespeare used as thoughts and dialogue in Breaking Dawn, specifically.… (more)
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English (31)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Certainly I do not admire this guy for the conceit of his audience, although I was curious to see if the affectation of the style would match the conceit it provoked, or whether it was rather different and undeserving of it, that is, unworthy of the negative association.

Certainly the poetry is I think the better part of it, preferable to the plays, which are bloody and gloomy. (I got a 'complete works' of William S., but mostly for the poetry.) Many of them are about the most infamous wars, and even the ones that go by the reputation of being romantic are generally gory and distasteful.... (indeed, the comedy is rather somber).... I think that the reputation rather supports itself beyond a certain point; people read it to dip into the conceit, I think, of the people who read it. Part of the conceit is for things historical, and William S.'s chronological position, so early in the post-medieval period, benefits him, I think, it's the oldest (and, therefore, the best?) stuff that is generally intelligible in the original. Even more than that, though, the reputation of it being a sort of quasi-sacred Canon of super-highly valued works.... the reputation supports the reputation. It's what people are used to thinking. [And this conceit really does not require much knowledge; it's a common thing, albeit one that may be unimproved by much learning.]

But if there's something in it besides egotistical war, it must be in the poetry. Surely alot of it is just over-rated because it's part of the Canon. And yet the sonnets have at least the stated intention of facilitating fertility, and not just the more egoic desires of old greybeards who know about the kings of Britain.

But there's the question of how well these poems actually serve love, in real life. We know that people say this or that about it all, but what real utility does this sort of thing have for real love in a man's life?

For example, consider the following exchange, which I always thought was an indirect reference to this (i.e., William S.):

" '.... and envied me Jane's beauty. I do not like to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane-- one does not often see anybody better-looking. It is what everybody says. I do not trust my own partiality. When she was only fifteen, there was a gentleman at my brother Gardiner's in town so much in love with her that my sister-in-law was sure that he would make her an offer before we came away. But, however, he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.'
'And so ended his affection,' said Elizabeth impatiently. 'There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!'
'I have been used to consider poetry as the *food* of love,' said Darcy.
'Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.'"
~Pride and Prejudice, chapter 9.

..... I hope that my criticism will not be mistaken for (gasp) communistic radicalism, (although no one would mistake William S. for the voice of the people). Although I suppose in general I prefer the poetry/music of the 20th century to that of the pre-18th century (pre-Classical, on the timeline of classical music). The Beach Boys, for example, wrote alot of good love poetry/music, e.g., "Forever" from 1970. Fancy 'baroque' or classical poetry/music, like Mozart or Coleridge, can be nice too, but the very early period like William S. I don't like so well. [*over*-fancy]. For one thing, there's the spelling, and the language, and so on. Certainly with William S. there's a feeling of historicism, quite often, with a crusty accumulation of time-- Roman times and medieval times, piled on top of each other. (Coleridge is rather newer-- the Age of Discovery.) In alot of the William S. stuff, you get that-- the post-medieval (pre-modern) take on Roman times.....

And what is the effect of the poetry itself? Does it have the power to create a desire to fulfill the literal advice? Or does it make it merely an affectation, to be spoken but not believed? What is its character-- is it a true lover, or a false friend?

[Can any lovely feeling survive the transition to sonnet-making, and still be felt?]

All that I can say is that I read it all without knowing any of those feelings so disdained by those who call themselves wiser.

I actually felt them quite repetitive, and more in love with language than any use of it. It's gaudy verse, and often more impressed with the necessity of love than any ability to impress it....

[Even when he speaks of love, he does not confine himself to his subject, but introduces words and images that smack of other things; he speaks of highfalutin things, elevated, various, and uncertain, and then says, "love", and "love" again.]

I've actually read simple folk poetry, ballads, which I like better than this. Some of them are good, some are bad, all are accessible enough, and none of them have the lying intricacies of William S. [And maybe he was wrong to use a form so foreign to the language; it doesn't sound natural.]

..... The speech is too guarded to be the "food of love". (Instead of enabling vivid images and all that, the formula only cuts him off from clear communication.) [And it's certainly not all about love; he goes off and on and on about Time and Death, as if to say, 'Ha haha, I know about what truely matters.' But this is a conceit. Only the form remains constant, the actual object of the writing doesn't stay true.]

If he is a wit, he has used it only for affected speech.

..... And although I can generally find my way to the meaning, it feels more the formula than anything. All rhyme has a form, but his is rather rigid.

If you read it long enough, you start to wonder what it's like not to be so weirdly abstract.... (and then remember the straightforward tales of bloody tyrants) [And speaking of tyrants-- he calls time one, and who would tell their lover, as he does, 'Soon you'll be old, but you'll always have this note', that says, what, 'Soon you'll be old....'?.... Try living in the moment, William, if this is what happens when you don't.]

I wonder at the sincerity of it all; he somewhat condescends to feel.

........ At any rate, the strawberries and cream of Wimbledon could well go on without William S., and I'm not really of the spirit to support that self-serving scholarship that delves into all that.

Although I'll admit its not the worst thing I've ever read; it's not monstrously cynical, in its original form; it's merely ill-suited to its stated purpose.

[.... In fact, I'd go so far to say that Mr. S. is *not* the most over-rated writer of all the world, since there are others.... but, let's not talk of that.]

[Sometimes a rhyme pleases, but even at its best, there is an emotional distance I feel which blocks him off.... there's a lordly silence, as though he once drew close, then suddenly turned away.]

(7/10) ( )
  fearless2012 | Jul 13, 2014 |

I’m going to do this review pretty informally because I don’t read a whole lot of poetry and so don’t have a very good standard for comparison. However, as we’re getting down to the wire for finishing 2012 challenges, I needed to read some poetry for the Around the Stack in How Many Ways genre challenge. I’ve always loved Shakespeare and the sonnets were free for kindle, so here we are

At the beginning especially, I found the sonnets harder to follow than the plays. They have less of a plot and there’s less time to get into them, although they do often connect to one another and they weren’t too tough to get through. There was a lot of variety in the sonnets so I think everyone will have some they like and some they don’t. Personally, I found some a little wordy, since the first 12 lines are often used to set up a point that is only touched on in the last 2 lines. I realize this is part of the style, with the quatrains somewhat separate from the couplet, but I like the ones where they’re more connected best. The majority of the sonnets, written to a young man the author loves, were particularly hit or miss for me. Some were extremely romantic, like the one describing the author’s heart and eye fighting over where his love’s image resides. Others describing how Shakespeare didn’t feel worthy of the young man’s love were over-the-top and melodramatic.

Finally, at the end we reach the sonnets to Shakespeare’s dark lady. I loved nearly all of these. My favorite was Sonnet 130 (they’re only numbered, not named), which you can find here. But to give you an idea, it starts “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;”. It goes on to make fun of the other literary cliches so often used to describe beautiful women, but then concludes that Shakespeare’s love is still special even if he doesn’t praise her in an unrealistic way. To me, that’s Shakespeare at his best – witty in a way that can still resonate with people reading his works hundreds of years later.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
1 vote DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |
I studied a few of Shakespeare's sonnets in high school, but hadn't read any of the others until now. I think the teachers/textbook editors picked the cream of the crop for high school students – XVIII (Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?), LXXIII (That time of year thou mayst in me behold...), CXVI (Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments). While a few others stood out for me, many of them struck me as just so-so, with over-repetitive themes.

The sonnets don't seem to have been collated in a random order. There is a logical progression from one sonnet to the next. Some sonnets echo the previous sonnet, while others are a continuation of thought. As a whole, I prefer the Dark Lady sonnets to the rest of the collection. I was losing interest in the “you're so perfect” theme, so the Dark Lady sonnets were a welcome change. I'm glad I read the collection once. I'm not sure it's something I'll do again, or at least not until I've read all of the plays. ( )
  cbl_tn | May 2, 2014 |
Well, some of the verses that I managed to grasp were genius.
p.s.: I did not read the commentaries, because enough is enough haha ( )
  pathogenik | Mar 2, 2014 |
The sonnets are great but the readings... I've heard better. Where the reader puts more feeling into it. ( )
  charlie68 | Oct 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Any way I can look at it, his achievement seems to me extraordinarily impressive.
added by davidcla | editNew York Review of Books, Frank Kermode (pay site) (Nov 5, 1970)
 

» Add other authors (191 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alden, Raymond MacdonaldEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Appelbaum, StanleyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auden, W. H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auld, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ballou, Robert OlesonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Booth, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooke, C. F. TuckerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duncan-Jones, KatharineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duncan-Jones, KatherineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gollancz, IsraelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harbage, AlfredEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mosher, Thomas B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mowat, Barbara A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reed, Edward BlissEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rolfe, William J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simonsuuri, KirstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ström, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verstegen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, Louis B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
TO THE ONLIE BEGETTER OF

THESE INSUING SONNETS

Mr. W. H., ALL HAPPINESSE

AND THAT ETERNITIE

PROMISED

BY

OUR EVER-LIVING POET

WISHETH

THE WELL-WISHING

ADVENTURER IN

SETTING

FORTH

T. T.
First words
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decrease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work contains all the 154 sonnets and no other fiction from Shakespeare. Please do not combine with selections of poems or work that contain plays or other poems.

Please do not combine Sonnets (No Fear Shakespeare) with Sonnets.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486266869, Paperback)

Over 150 exquisite poems deal with love, friendship, the tyranny of time, beauty's evanescence, death, and other themes in language unsurpassed in passion, precision, originality, and beauty. This inexpensive Dover edition enables any lover of poetry or fine literature to have this remarkable verse in his or her library. Includes glossary of archaic terms. Includes a selection from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:32 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

T.S. Eliot once wrote that, "Shakespeare gives the greatest width of human passion," and it is this passion that has traditionally made The Sonnets appealing to literati and laymen alike. Surrounded by mystery, these poems of devotion and jealousy, of a young courtier and a Dark Lady, have been the subject of endless speculation. They are highly mystical and at the same time highly honest as W. H. Auden wrote, "...what is astonishing about the sonnets, especially when one remembers the age in which they were written, is the impression they make of naked autobiographical confession." Because they are witty, passionate, personal, and often ever bawdy, The Sonnets stand as one of the greatest poetic tributes ever written to a beloved. Elegantly presented in deluxe edition, these 154 beautiful poems are the perfect gift for any man or woman who has ever been in love.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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