The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1489 Monday, 9 August 2004
Date: Friday, 30 Jul 2004 16:30:17 EDT
Subject: 15.1444 Sonnet 89
Comment: Re: SHK 15.1444 Sonnet 89
For those who insist the sonnets are not autobiographical, go on to the
next posting at once and do not look back.
"Probably more nonsense has been talked and written, more intellectual
and emotional energy has been expended in vain, on the Sonnets of
Shakespeare than on any other literary work in the world."
W.H. Auden Introduction to the 1964 Edition
Auden notwithstanding, bear with me:
Sonnet 86 is one of about 25 sonnets in the "middle pile" (##18-126), of
sonnets where WS takes issue with, attacks, insults, defends himself
against, or otherwise sounds off in the direction of his patron
(presumably the earl, Henry W). The large percentage of sonnets invested
in this suggests that the relationship between the young earl and WS was
One would imagine, (key word here is "imagine"), WS engages in these
arguments (to gently express his displeasure with HW, or to provide lame
excuses for his own behavior, etc), to try to stay on the patronage roll
or in the social shadow of an earl. WS never goes so far as to actually
offend HW; at least not in the sonnets.
But why would the earl tolerate such insolence from WS, and over such an
extended period of time? Perhaps the earl didn't read or understand the
sonnets, or perhaps WS was allowed a certain latitude because the earl
benefited by association with WS' street-level popularity. WS would have
surely socially benefitted (even beyond the earl's Catholic circle) by
his association with the earl, at least up until the rebellion.
Refer to the following examples of sonnets that might form a pattern: