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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
Commissioned Sonnets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1925  Tuesday, 22 November 2005

From: 		Thomas Jensen <
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Date: 		Monday, 21 Nov 2005 11:16:19 -0700
Subject: 	Were many of the sonnets commissioned?

My wife and I are reading Helen Vendler's 1997 edition of the Sonnets. 
It seems everyone who approaches them, including Professor Vendler, 
infers some level of biography from them, (if only to the extent of the 
person or persons to which they are addressed.)  Professor A. L. Rowse 
provides a very cogent narrative, for example.  Nevertheless, my 
personal impression is that many of those inferences are rather 
strained.  An alternative possibility is that the poems are a mixture of 
personal poetry and poetry that was "commissioned," as the first 17 
could easily have been.  That would certainly explain the immense 
variety of tone and implicit point of view.  In this context I have 
three questions.

1. Is there any historical evidence beyond the dedication that the some 
of the sonnets were commissioned?
2. Is there any historical evidence of other Elizabethan poets having 
been commissioned to write a sonnet for someone to someone else?
3. Are there any good critical works examining the relationship of the 
sonnets to the plays?

Thank you all in advance for any comments on this topic.

Thomas Jensen

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