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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: August ::
Re: Sonnets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1370  Wednesday 4 August 1999.

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 09:48:21 -0400
        Subj:   Wills and Hells

[2]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 08:05:41 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1362 Re: Sonnets

[3]     From:   Bruce Young <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 03 Aug 1999 14:28:59 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1362 Re: Sonnets


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 09:48:21 -0400
Subject:        Wills and Hells

You don't have to read a lot of Sonnets to find endless quibbles on
"hell" (genitalia) and "Will" (lust/genitalia)--the exact equivalent
would be a contemporary stand-up comic named Richard who never stops
talking about "dick."

MND II.1.150-164
OBERON: That very time I saw [...]
Cupid, all ar'md. A certain aim he took
At a fair Vestal, throned by the West,
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts.
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon,
And the imperial vot'ress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.

That is the kind of reference one made to Elizabeth, if one wanted to
finish her reign with the same number of ears as one started with.
Content: "Gloriana rules OK."

"Yo, bitch, you bird-dogged my girlfriend" would not have been
acceptable content.

If the Sonnets are based on real events in Shakespeare's life, they
describe a love triangle involving the (married) poet's
not-conventionally-attractive and married mistress, and a young man to
whom he was emotionally attached and with whom he either did or didn't
have sex.  (I don't believe that Othello's young affects were defunct
either.) Not terribly creditable to any participant, and not the stuff
of courtly flattery.

Dana Shilling

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 08:05:41 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 10.1362 Re: Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1362 Re: Sonnets

Hello, is it not true that this is the first recorded use of 'prick' in
a sexual sense?

Wilfully yours,
William S.,

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <
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Date:           Tuesday, 03 Aug 1999 14:28:59 +0000
Subject: 10.1362 Re: Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1362 Re: Sonnets

I'm not dismissing the possibility that the Sonnets may be addressed to
or allude to a variety of persons (if indeed they are autobiographical
at all), but I'm surprised no one has mentioned that Sonnet 20 is not
the only one clearly referring to a male friend.

Sonnet 3 is addressed to someone who, by not marrying, will "unbless
some mother"-i.e., deprive some woman of the blessing of being a
mother.  So the sonnet's got to be addressed to a man, right?  Note also
the rhetorical question ("For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb /
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?") suggesting that no woman, no
matter how beautiful, would refuse to have his child.  Again,
"husbandry" and the fact that the person addressed is imagined to be
doing the "tilling" of a womb indicate a man.  "He" and "his" in the
next two lines confirm the assumption.

Among the sonnets urging marriage (1-17), there are others clearly
addressed to a man: Sonnet 7 says "unless thou get a son"
("get"="beget," which is what the father does); Sonnet 13, with the word
"husbandry" and the closing line "You had a father, let your son say so"
(so clearly a potential father is being addressed); and maybe Sonnet 9,
where references to widows and husband suggest the person addressed is
male.

A quick look at the other sonnets on marriage doesn't reveal any others
so obviously addressed to a man as these, but the fact that the first 17
sonnets pretty clearly form a series and that the themes and attitudes
(and often phrasing) in 3, 7, 9, and 13 are echoed in many of the others
suggests to me that they're all addressed to the same person.

Bruce Young
 

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