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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Sonnet 76
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1778  Thursday, 20 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Robert Projansky <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 06:47:54 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1758 Sonnet 76

[2] 	From: 	Dan Decker <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 12:59:26 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1766 Sonnet 76


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Robert Projansky <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 06:47:54 -0700
Subject: 16.1758 Sonnet 76
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1758 Sonnet 76

 >Ben Alexander asks what does Sonnet 76 mean at line 7:
 >
 >"That euery word doth almost fel my name,"

Why does everybody seem to believe that's "tell"? In the online 1609 
facsimile at

http://www.shu.ac.uk/emls/Sonnets/e4v.jpg

it looks pretty clearly to me to be "sel my name". "Sell" doesn't make 
much sense to me there, but from the four-line sentence in which it is 
embedded, I would guess that's a typo that was meant to read:

Why write I still all one, ever the same
And keep invention in a noted weed
That every word doth almost spel my name,
Shewing their birth, and where they did proceed?

I think that's a better fit than "tell".

Of course, I have no way to support my supposition except to say that 
"spell" there just seems more Shakespearean to me than "tell", I guess 
because "spell" is a verb more intimately involved with the act of 
writing, the purported subject of the poem so far, than "tell". In 
literal terms, I think "every word" has to be busier and cleverer to 
somehow "spell" the poet's name than simply to "tell" it.

Also, I don't think WS wants the connotation of counting here, which 
"tell" brings with it. And I suppose (without being able to say why) a 
compositor's dropped-letter typo would be more likely than a 
substituted-letter typo. Now, if the error originated with WS or a 
scrivener rather than in the printshop, I think a dropped "p" hugely 
more likely than the erroneous substitution of an "s" for a "t".

On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, says that 
when he was a printer's apprentice it was his job to fetch drink for the 
printers, that they said because it was heavy work for strong men they 
needed strong drink. I suppose it's miraculous that anything they 
printed ever made sense. And, of course, the t's and s's would have been 
right next to each other in the tray, so any sweaty compositor with his 
thirst well-quenched could easily have set an s for a t.

Best wishes,
Bob Projansky

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Dan Decker <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 12:59:26 EDT
Subject: 16.1766 Sonnet 76
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1766 Sonnet 76

I believe it was Helen Vendler who suggested that 76 reads as though it 
is in response to something said to the poet (presumably by the person 
who has received the most sonnets (presumably the Fair Youth (presumably 
Henry Rosely <wink>))), along the lines of, "Why is it everything you 
write me is always the same? Sonnets, sonnets, sonnets! That's all I 
ever get from you." To which the poet wrote 76, basically dismissing the 
rag for his inability to understand just what the sonnets were.

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