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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: July ::
RE: More on the Sonnets
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 185.  Wednesday, 29 July 1992.
 
From: 		Lars Engle <
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Date: 		Wednesday, July 29, 1992, 08:52:50 CST
Subject: More on the Sonnets
Comment: 	RE:SHK 3.0179  More on the Sonnets
 
 
In Message Thu, 23 Jul 1992 07:46:10 EDT,
  "Hardy M. Cook" <
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>I too found Foster's *PMLA* article convincing.  I would, however, like to
>look for a moment at an internal issue with the sonnets.  Someone recently, I
>believe that it was Joseph Pequigney although I cannot find it in my notes,
>suggested that there is NO internal evidence that the Young Friend is a
>nobleman.  On the other hand, Leonard Tennenhouse argues that the sonnets
>embody a political language, "a language for negotiating with a patron for the
>client's position."
>
>Fully aware of E. K. Chambers's pronouncement that "more folly has been
>written about the sonnets than about any other Shakespearean topic," I am
>wondering if in fact we can identify the Young Man as a noble or not based on
>the sonnets themselves?
>
>                                             Hardy M. Cook
>                                             
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The issue seems typical of the sonnets in that they constantly supply us with
evaluations without supplying precise (or even imprecise) social circumstances
to anchor them: a potentially historical question about identity dissolves into
an economic question about value.  The evaluations, especially in 1-127, vary
markedly even though they seem to have the same object. Critics have wanted to
anchor or explain evaluations by supplying identities, but Shakespeare seems
likely to have wanted to tease us into recognizing how, generally speaking,
contingencies of value undermine certainties of identification.
 
I'm not an expert on the critical history of the sonnets, but the
"patron-client" hypothesis received strong expression in Empson's chapter on
"They that have power to hurt" in *Some Versions of Pastoral*, and
Tennenhouse's use of the term may very likely come from there.  Empson seems to
have thought they were addressed to Southampton.
 
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