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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: The Order of the Sonnets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1533  Tuesday, 29 July 2003

From:           Mac Jackson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Jul 2003 12:27:05 +1200
Subject: 14.1525 Re: The Order of the Sonnets
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1525 Re: The Order of the Sonnets

The Order of the Sonnets

I have argued in a series of articles that the order of the sonnets in
the 1609 Quarto is Shakespeare's: MacD. P. Jackson, "Aspects of
Organization in Shakespeare's Sonnets (1609)," Parergon 17 (1999):
109-34; "Shakespeare's Sonnets: Rhyme and Reason in the Dark Lady
Series," Notes and Queries 244 (1999): 219-22; "The Distribution of
Pronouns in Shakespeare's Sonnets," AUMLA 97 (2002): 22-38. I could send
offprints to anybody who is interested.

Rene Graziani's note, "The Numbering of Shakespeare's Sonnets: 12, 60,
and 126: Shakespeare Quarterly 35 (1984): 79-82, seems to me to
establish that Sonnets 12 and 60, at the very least, are in their right
place and correctly numbered. My colleague Kenneth Larsen pointed out in
an excellent paper delivered to the Sixth Biennial Conference of the
Australia and New Zealand Shakespeare Association, Auckland July 2000,
that Sonnet 77's "mirror" theme is singularly appropriate to its
position at the midpoint of the sequence of 154, and that sonnets
featuring a "glass" can be found in or near the middle of sequences by
Spenser, Barnfield, Constable, Drayton, and others.

In my Parergon piece I explore the nature of the organization of the
Quarto sequence, which is similar to the kind of organization that Helen
Vendler found within individual sonnets. Once you think of the order not
as chronological (a kind of biographical record), but as reflecting
Shakespeare's final intentions as he worked the poems into an overall
aesthetic design, it makes good sense.

Of course many good books on the Sonnets, including Hilton Landry's of
long ago, have tended to vindicate the Quarto order.

Mac Jackson

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