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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: January ::
Re: Reading the Sonnets
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0022.  Tuesday, 11 January 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Skip Shand <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Jan 1994 07:53 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0019  Reading the Sonnets
 
(2)     From:   James McKenna <MCKENNJI@UCBEH.bitnet>
        Date:   Monday, 10 Jan 1994 23:53:34 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: sonnets
 
(3)     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Tuesday, January 11, 1994
        Subj:   Reading the Sonnets
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Shand <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jan 1994 07:53 EDT
Subject: 5.0019  Reading the Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0019  Reading the Sonnets
 
Simon Callow has a wonderful section on his one-man Sonnets show in
*Being an Actor*. (Benedict Nightingale, I believe it was, thought Callow's
performance uninteresting, observed that perhaps it would have been more
interesting if Callow had performed the poems with a ferret down his
trousers!) Best of luck with your reading (and beware of critics bearing
ferrets).
                                        Skip Shand
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James McKenna <MCKENNJI@UCBEH.bitnet>
Date:           Monday, 10 Jan 1994 23:53:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: sonnets
 
I wouldn't skip any of them, and I think it's valuable to read a smattering of
other Elizabethan sonneteers for context.  Spenser's AMORETTI are very
accessible, as are many of Sidney's sonnets and songs from ASTROPHIL AND
STELLA.  (The Musicians of Swanne Alley have recorded Elizabethan settings of a
few of Sidney's songs--recording title: AS I WENT TO WALSINGHAM).  Michael
Drayton and Barnabe Barnes can give you an earthier view of things.  For an
edition of the sonnets, Stephen Booth's *heavily* annotated edition is great
for a conversation starter (SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS. Yale, 1977).  Read the notes
for each sonnet first, then read the sonnet itself.  Mmmm-mmm.  Beauty too rich
for use, for earth too dear.
 
James McKenna
mckennji@ucbeh.bitnet
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Tuesday, January 11, 1994
Subject:        Reading the Sonnets
 
I would encourage you to read the sonnets in the order they were originally
published in 1609.  Having said this, you might, nevertheless, consider
beginning with Sonnet 144:
 
        TWo loues I haue of comfort  and di|spaire,
        Which like two |spirits do |sugie{|st} me {|st}ill,
        The better angell is a man right faire:
        The wor|ser |spirit a woman collour'd il.
        To win me |soone to hell my femall euill,
        Tempteth my better angel from my {|si}ght,
        And would corrupt my |saint to be a diuel:
        Wooing his purity with her fowle pride.
        And whether that my angel be turn'd {fi}nde,
        Su|spe{ct} I may,yet not dire{ct}ly tell,
        But being both from me both to each friend,
        I ge{|s|s}e one angel in an others hel.
          Yet this {|sh}al I nere know but liue in doubt,
          Till my bad angel {fi}re my good one out.
 
I should also point out that the sonnets are often used as exercise pieces
by Shakespearean actors.  For further information on this point, see Barton's
*Playing Shakespeare*, a book I mentioned in the discussion of Reading, Seeing,
Hearing . . . Shakespeare.  In "Chapter Six: Using the Sonnets," Barton
writes (or speaks, since the book is based on a Channel Four, London Weekend
Television series), ". . . sonnets can be excellent exercise pieces for actors.
Most of the textual and verbal points that come up in working on the plays
appear in the sonnets in concentrated form."
 
Finally, Caedmon has a set of two audio cassettes (CPN 241) of John Gielgud
reading most of the 154 sonnets, which are well worth a listen or two or three
or . . .
 

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