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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: April ::
Re: the Onlie Begetter
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0403  Thursday, 30 April 1998.

[1]     From:   Joe Shea <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Apr 1998 07:59:57 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0399 Q: Sonnets

[2]     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Apr 1998 19:26:12 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0399  Q: Sonnets


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joe Shea <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Apr 1998 07:59:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 9.0399 Q: Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0399 Q: Sonnets

Maybe, the Onlie Begetter is Shakespeare, and the editor printer was
inscribing it to him as a familiar name-W.H. being the equivalent of
say, JP for JP Jones.  Did anyone have middle names back then?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Apr 1998 19:26:12 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 9.0399  Q: Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0399  Q: Sonnets

An Sonjae wrote:

> Some time before Christmas a question was posted to the list asking
> about the current status of the suggestion (made some years ago in PMLA)
> that the mysterious W.H. of the Sonnets' Dedication is a typo for WS and
> (let me add) that Begetter means author. It was noted that Katherine
> Duncan-Jones in her new edition showed no interest in (or awareness of?)
> the PMLA article's suggestions. Her edition has not yet reached me
> (Korea is another planet sometimes) but I do not recall seeing any
> replies to that December query and wonder if I missed something? Or was
> everyone too busy?

Duncan-Jones does not cite Foster's article or mention him by name, but
she does allude to his article in the following sentences (pp.57-8):

"The financial aspect of patronage, in this period, should never be
overlooked.  After three years in which London's public theatres had
been closed because of plague, Shakespeare must have been looking for
the best possible reward for his precious sonnets.  It is most
improbable that he would have wished the book to be dedicated,
sentimentally, to some obscure actor or sea-cook (the mythical 'Willie
Hughes'), or a penniless kinsman (his infant nephew William Hart, or his
presumed brother-in-law William Hathaway) -- least of all to 'William
Himself' or 'William [S]h[akespeare]'.  None of these could offer him
prestige and protection, or, more crucially, a substantial cash
reward."  [She then goes on to argue that 'W.H.' stands for William
Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke.]

Duncan-Jones makes the perhaps unwarranted assumptions that (1) The
dedication was Shakespeare's doing, despite the initials 'T.T.' at the
end; and (2) Shakespeare would have needed a financial reward, even
though he was very well-off by this time.

G. Blakemore Evans, in his New Cambridge edition of the Sonnets (1996),
cites Foster's article and summarizes his arguments (p.115), but adds,
"But Foster's argument founders on what I feel is a forced
interpretation of God as 'our.ever-living.poet'."

Walter Cohen, in the Norton edition of Shakespere (1997), writes
(p.1920): "The Sonnets' dedication is to 'Mr. W.H.," Pembroke's initials
and the reverse of Southampton's.  But neither is likely to have been
addressed as "Mr.", there may well be chronological problems with the
attributions, and 'W.H.' could be a misprint for 'W.SH.' (William
Shakespeare)."  He does not, however, cite Foster's article.

Dave Kathman

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