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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Sonnet 89
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1608  Monday, 30 August 2004

[1]     From:   Sally Drumm <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 09:47:52 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1600 Sonnet 89

[2]     From:   Alan Dessen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 10:16:05 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1600 Sonnet 89

[3]     From:   Jack Kamen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 20:53:28 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1600 Sonnet 89


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sally Drumm <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 09:47:52 -0400
Subject: 15.1600 Sonnet 89
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1600 Sonnet 89

 >would not Meres comment that the sonnets
 >were being read amongst his private
 >friends indicate that they were of a personal nature?

Of a personal nature, and, of an autobiographical nature, are two
separate entities.  Mixing the two terms muddies this thread.  Briefly,
and to save someone else the time looking it up -- Personal:  an
adjective describing something of or relating to a particular person;
private; done, made, or performed in person; concerning a particular
person and his or her private business, interests, or activities;
intimate, etc....  Autobiographical:  an adjective describing something
pertaining to the biography of a person by that person.

This is a picky matter of semantics, but looking at the two terms for
what each actually is, might help one form an opinion regarding the
nature of the sonnets.  Of course the sonnets are personal, that is
beyond dispute.  Writing, whether fiction, drama, poetry, etc, is a
personal act by a human being who desires to make an internal image
external. Writing is always personal, even the most objective criticism
is by nature personal--one just can't take it personally when aimed in
one's direction.

As we all know, there are many reasons for a writer to share work among
friends--beyond the possibility of autobiography.  I would suggest that
for some writers, the more personal or autobiographical the writing is,
the less likely it will appear anywhere except in print.  It seems to me
that Shakespeare was not much on sharing his personal life with the
general public, and his autobiographical leavings are minimal.  As such
is it likely that he would take the sort of deeply personal incident
some theorize are contained in the sonnets, and turn those into
autobiography.  For an author like Shakespeare, who left mainly his
work, and so little purely autobiographical material behind, perhaps the
best that can be identified are patterns of writing, and the actual
facts forever elusive.  That quality of elusiveness certainly makes his
life intriguing.

I am unclear on a few points brought up in this thread.

First: I surmise, only from what I have read here, that no one knows, or
has any way of knowing whether the sonnets are autobiographical.  But,
there are many theories on how to decipher the sonnets
autobiographically if they could be proven to be so, a matter which
seems at present beyond proving.

Second:  I have not yet seen a post here concerning why the sonnets were
constructed as they were.  I know the form is a descendent of Petrarch's
form, but I wonder what theories have emerged in response to this question.

Third: One impression that emerges in the thread is that the sonnets
were never intended by Shakespeare for publication, but were missives
intended for specific persons.  Has this been proven?  Perhaps I am
misreading.

Sincerely,
Sally Drumm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Dessen <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 10:16:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 15.1600 Sonnet 89
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1600 Sonnet 89

As to historical evidence for condoms in the Renaissance, way way back
(in 1960) I was told by a learned 18th century specialist (with
reference to a project on *Antony and Cleopatra*) that "armor" was the
slang term for our "condom."  However, that usage is not listed in
either the OED or Frankie Rubinsteins's book.

Alan Dessen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Kamen <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 20:53:28 -0500
Subject: 15.1600 Sonnet 89
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1600 Sonnet 89

Martin Green writes:

 >I think there's verbal evidence, inferable from one of Shakespeare's
 >puns.  In Trolius and Cressida, Hector says to Menelaus   "Your quondam
 >wife sweares still by Venus Glove." (4,5,177)  In Elizabethan times, qu
 >before a vowel was often pronounced as a k (see quondam in OED), and the
 >line, puzzling on its face, is clever and acerb if the pun is
 >understood.

  The OED, however, gives the year 1708 for the first recorded use of
'condom.'

  Ay, there's the rubber.

Jack Kamen

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