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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: The Order of the Sonnets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1525  Monday, 28 July 2003

From:           Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:           Saturday, 26 Jul 2003 19:22:59 EDT
Subject: 14.1465 The Order of the Sonnets
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1465 The Order of the Sonnets

Greg McSweeney asks:

>Do we base [the Sonnet order] on the first publication?

Yes.

>And do we know by what authority the original submitter(s)
>of the Sonnets for publication arranged them in the order we
>inherit . . . ?

No.

>And do we have a best guess as to how the poems went
>from private circulation into print?

Not really. Very good questions. The reason the Sonnet order is
maintained is that most attempts at rearrangement have been proposed in
support of other argument. With no good results, the order has assumed
an authority all its own.

The Shakespeare Sonnet Order: Poems and Groups, by Brents Stirling
(1968, $8.95 at Addall) is a treatment of the issue that I recommend. I
think he shows well enough that the order of the quarto is not perfect.

Among many grouped sonnets Stirling finds (as all would) "intensive
links," and "close associations." But some sonnets are "unattached" or
"incoherent" in respect of their locations.  His premise is that
rearrangement restores the links within various groups, and I think he
makes his case very well.  He seems not to promote any special opinion
otherwise.

Without further discussion, you may read Stirling's "Poem IIB," sonnets
24 and 46 -- 47; or IIC, 61, 27 -- 28 & 43.  His presumption is that
amongst so many sonnets clearly grouped, some of the ungrouped must have
been intended to be together.

Gerald E. Downs

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