on March 23, 2016
The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man; the last 28 to a woman. The sonnets to the young man express overwhelming, obsessional love. The main issue of debate has always been whether it remained platonic or became physical. 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. Other sonnets express the speaker's love for the young man; brood upon loneliness, death, and the transience of life; seem to criticize the young man for preferring a rival poet; express ambiguous feelings for the speaker's mistress; and pun on the poet's name. The final two sonnets are allegorical treatments of Greek epigrams referring to the "little love-god" Cupid.
The sonnets lend themselves to many interpretations in part because Shakespeare consciously inverts conventional gender roles to create a more complex depiction of human love. He plays with gender roles, comments on political events, makes fun of love, speaks openly about sexual desire, parodies beauty, and even references pornography. In a dozen of the sonnets to the youth, Shakespeare also refers to his 'disgrace': "My name be buried where my body is / And live no more to shame nor me nor you" (72). Sensational stuff!
on March 11, 2012
To speak in Shakespeare's language, one must understand the playwright and poet developing and honing his precise skills all the while writing strict, disciplined 14-line sonnets. How does one infuse a sonnet with a lip (the 14th line) with love, passion, intimacy, tenderness, and dramatic flair. Does one invent romantic drama out of thin air? I think not. You experience the kiss or touch, and you write about it. Yes, you observe couples kissing or holding each other, and create emotive poetry. Where does one start when writing highly romantic sonnets? A sonneteer starts with his or a sonneteress with her Prologue, the title to their sonnet: the dove flutters her wings with delicate motion. Yes, unsubtle passion may find her way into Act Two. The sonneteer now becomes the playwright, and accepts the challenge; although the lady in waiting may be writing her Mirrored Sonnet in the feminine to his masculine words. This is done in a genteel manner.
To wit, their crescendo must rise immediately from Line 1 to 4 (Act I), then rise with power from Lines 5 to 10 (Act II), then rise within the ascending mode to a denouement from Lines 11 to 15 (Act III). One writes to the sacred crescendo, decrescendo, diminuendo, denouement and climactic points (two mini-climaxes ending Lines 4 and 10; a major climax or lip ending Line 14) or one does not write a exquisite romantic sonnet (I shudder at the thought). Does anyone enjoy a flat or linear sonnet? Of course not. The emotion, beauty, balance, artistic parallelisms and patterns (1-2, 1-2-3, and 1-2-3 & 4, based on Italian musical theory) must adhere to the refined crescendo line, weaving in and out of commas (1/4 stops), semi-colons (hard 1/2 stops), colons (soft 1/2 stops), ellipses (middle break or ending break; a pause in intricate passionate wording), dashes (rise in pitch & speech), and the period (full stop). Rhythmical writing has now come into play with rhymed patterns that either elevate the sonnet, equal the passion & grandeur of it, or downplay it through missed rhythms or patterns. The transcendent qualities of pure romance can be missed in Lines 7 to 9; indirectness at play may require directness in words to achieve good power.
The silken weave of any superb romantic sonnet is in the blush, the purr, the hush, the murmur, the genteel aside, the flurry of dove feathers when so much subtle intimacy has played out so well under the covers. O' Passion, spend more time with me in Lines 9 to 12. I will not leave you in the rain. This poetic voice, like a lover's echo, resonates in the best of Shakespeare's romantic sonnets. He speaks directly to the intended lover; he voices his depth of feeling and emotion in words that poetically work in the sonnet 3-act structure - that quell the storm by the end of Act III (Line 14). All is accomplished by that denouement line; all urgency, hastened speech, the romantic pitch of waves flows like silk into those final words; as if a 3-act play, reduced down to miniature size, has completed its kiss upon the brow or lips of the intended. It is pure romance; its refinement levels are off the charts. I bow in humility to the master playwright, poet, and sonneteer, William Shakespeare and his artistic work.
Highly recommend this collection of poems and sonnets from Oxford World's Classics. I am deeply indebted to Oxford University Press for their literaray classics and their unabridged English language dictionary with word origins in Latin, French, German, and Italian.