All entries for Thursday 21 May 2009

May 21, 2009

The Sonnets – 400th anniversary

Sorry I missed this. Yesterday was the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets, a book I'm particularly interested in as comparison to the First Folio. The idea of an individual authorial authority is, as I've argued elsewhere, difficult to sustain in the case of the posthumously published dramatic works, and even to an extent in the case of the quartos published in Shakespeare's lifetime. The poems are a different matter: they circulated in a very different kind of literary culture, and the authorial pronouncements in their prefatory matter are the closest we get to Shakespeare's own voice (I don't buy into the sonnets themselves being autobiographical, unless in a very obscure sense).

An important book then, and I'll celebrate with my favourite Shakespearean sonnet.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

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I’m Peter Kirwan, a final year doctoral student in the English Department at Warwick, and this is my PhD blog.


Conferences, reviews, articles, thoughts and links relating to my interests in the Shakespeare apocrypha, early modern drama, authorship and performance.

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