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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: January ::
The Sonnets (Cont'd)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 6. Monday, 7 Jan 1991.
 
Date:   Mon, 7 Jan 91 11:02:42 EST
From:   Mark Lee <IRMSS908@SIVM>
Subject: The Dark Side of the Sonnets
Comment:      SHK 2.0004  The Dark Side of the Sonnets
 
From: Mark Lee
      Office Applications Group, OIRM
      Arts & Industries Building Room 2310
 
In response to Ken Moyle: The question of a male addressee of some of the
sonnets is not new, nor is it the exercise of bored literature scholars. The
question first came to print in 1609 with the publication of the sonnets by
Thomas Thorp, whose edition carried the following dedication:
 
                    TO. THE. ONLIE. BEGETTER. OF.
                     THESE. INSVING. SONNETS.
                      Mr.W.H. ALL. HAPPINESSE.
                        AND. THAT. ETERNITIE.
                              PROMISED.
                                 BY.
                      OVR. EVER-LIVING. POET.
                             WISHETH.
                         THE. WELL-WISHING.
                           ADVENTVER. IN.
                             SETTING.
                              FORTH.
 
                                     T.T.
 
                      NOTE: Line 1: ONLIE -> (read) only;
                            Line 2: INSVING -> insuing;
                            Line 3: HAPPINESSE -> happiness;
                            Line 4: ETERNITIE -> eternity;
                            Line 7: OVR -> our;
                            Line 10: ADVENTVER -> adventurer.
 
Additionally, there are a number of indications throughout the sonnets
themselves which indicate that the intended subject to whom the the work
was being addressed was not female.
 
Sonnet 1, in consideration of the usage of the term 'churl' could arguably
have been addressed to a man. Sonnet 2, employs the term 'youth' which could
be either male or female, but Sakespeare  does use the term to indicate a
young male in Much Ado About Nothing. Sonnet 3, is to the point:
 
Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb
Distains the tillage of thy husbandry?
          .
          .
          .
 
 
Sonnet 9 is again blunt and to the point:
 
Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye
That thou consums't thyself in single life?
          .
          .
          .
 
Sonnet 20, however, complete with anatomical pun, goes straight to
the heart of the matter:
 
A woman's face, with Nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not aquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.
 
I daresay that I have only highlighted the more obvious.  I suggest that you
might want to re-read the sonnents with a good dictionary at hand.
 
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| Mark Lee                | Phone: (202) 357-4222           |
| Smithsonian Institution | E-Mail: IRMSS908 @ SIVM.BITNET  |
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