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William Shakespeare is best known as a playwright. When you think of Shakespeare, you automatically think of plays -- "Romeo and Juliet," "Macbeth," "Hamlet," etc.
But he was also a poet of considerable skill. And while he sprinkled his various plays with poetry and songs, his poems are best appreciated when they're read all by themselves -- particularly the cluster of brilliant "Sonnets" that he penned. These works just have a unique, hauntingly vivid flavour of their own.
Each sonnet has no title, and is simply identified by numbers. And while Shakespeare's love poems are the best known of these works, he addresses different themes in theme -- old age, writer's block loneliness, the cruelty of the world, sex, beauty, a mysterious rival poet, and Shakespeare's own complicated romantic feelings (love that "looks upon tempests and is not shaken").
And these poems are absolutely lovely. Some of these sonnets are pretty well-known ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/Thou art more lovely and more temperate") but most of them are a little more obscure. They have vivid metaphors and imagery ("let not winter's ragged hand deface," "gold candles fix'd in heaven's air") and hauntingly lovely passages ("What is your substance, whereof are you made,/That millions of strange shadows on you tend?").
And these sonnets really give you new insights into Shakespeare as a person -- he feels uncertainty, passionate love, unhappiness, lust and quirky humor. But while it's obvious these sonnets were deeply personal, they can still be appreciated on their own, particularly as love poetry.
William Shakespeare's "Sonnets" are rich with meaning, language and atmosphere -- the Elizabethan English takes a little deciphering, but it's well worth it.
I am a big fan of Shakespeare, his poetry as well as his plays. The poetry here is excellent. I deduct one star from this review, because on the kindle version, the default type size setting puts about 8 sentences per page, and each sentence runs to 2 lines. Thus, you don't see the entire poem on a single page, with each sentence in a single line as you would in a nice paper book. Maybe that is nit-picky to some folks.
That being said, I greatly appreciate Kindle, and the wide variety of classic literature available for little cost. Thank you to all who are making these things available for e-readers.
The sonnets are free. Download them. Put them on the front screen of your kindle, then get up to buy a coffee. Make sure the hipster girl sitting at the table next to you sees what you are reading on your kindle. Get back to your table, look like you are reading sonnets. Pretend to weep softly to yourself. Look up and catch her eye. She gives you a kind small smile. Get up and leave, never to see her again, because what could be is always more beautiful than what is.
Or actually read the sonnets because it is Shakespeare, and he is an amazing poet.
Shakespeare's sonnets are even more genius than time has given them credit. If I had to choose between Hamlet and The Sonnets.. it would be a very difficult choice. Shakespeare re-invented the sonnet, gave it a more mainstream structure. Each one tells a brief story, a super mini-play, an inner monologue, an ode to love, betrayal or wisdom. I enjoy 21st century poetry from time to time, but this is the stuff you can sink your teeth into. I like the structure and its limits. Shakespeare takes complicated life experiences and explains them in 140 syllables and a catchy rhyme scheme. Modern poets enjoy making life sound even more complicated than it really is.
Every reader far and wide should read Shakespeare's Sonnets. Your IQ will rise before your eyes. You should also check out The Death Sonnets (Halloween Library Edition) which is a modern collection of spooky poetry written in the Shakespearean Sonnet structure.
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Last year on UK BBC Radio 2, Jeremy Vine introduced Sonnets of Shakespeare set to contemporary music. I thought, wow, what a brilliant way to get our young people learning them and maybe it will bring alive what is often regarded as dried up and impossible to understand stuff. I thought of the children first, believing it's too late for olds like me. I always gave up on Shakespeare's work before doing any part of it justice. But, sitting there later I couldn't get it off my mind and as music is food for my soul I thought well alright perhaps I could also learn why so many regard Shakespeare so highly. Hence, I searched Amazon UK and found the album 'Shakespeare: The Sonnets'.
After downloading the MP3 version I dug out my copy of 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare' to see the words as I listened to the music. I bought it in 1970 and the forty plus years since then had not been kind to it (browned considerably) nor my eyesight - the font is tiny! So when I saw this Kindle book I was delighted. On my Kindle for PC I can have the font supersize if I want and I also have all 154 Sonnets at my fingertips to take me beyond the eleven on the album.
Regarding its very basic format, viz one Sonnet after another with no links to jump to specific individual Sonnets, I made my own 'contents' by adding a note to every Sonnet. It took a while but it was so worth doing. First I listed their numbers in standard Arabic. This was a positive exercise for me as I was reminded of the Roman numeral system which traditionally the book uses. Then I added the first line of each Sonnet.
I'm actually quite glad that this book is so basic. By getting involved in its structure and providing the contents myself I am more inclined to read the Sonnets rather than have them 'gathering dust' as my old hardback has. It is absolutely perfect for me.
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