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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: December ::
Biography in the Sonnets

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0335  Friday, 9 December 2011

 

[1] From:         Donald Bloom < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 8, 2011 12:47:17 PM EST

     Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Bio Sonnets

 

[2] From:         Brian Bixley < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 8, 2011 2:00:35 PM EST

     Subject:      Bio Sonnets 

 

[3] From:         William Sutton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 9, 2011 5:09:02 AM EST

     Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Bio Sonnets

 

[4] From:         Ian Steere < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         December 9, 2011 5:20:59 AM EST

     Subject:      Biography in the Sonnets

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Donald Bloom < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 8, 2011 12:47:17 PM EST

Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Bio Sonnets

 

Is there any substantive evidence that Shakespeare wrote the sonnets in question in the period when Southampton was a "fair youth" (say, 1589 to 1599), and not up to ten years later when they were published? Two of the sequence were indeed published in The Passionate Pilgrim, but they would hardly support the Southampton thesis, being not in the slightest "sugared." Bate suggests that the ones sometimes definitely, sometimes only possibly addressed to a "fair youth" were written after the accession of James I / VI in 1603 at which time homosexuality, real or pretended, became fashionable—and Southampton was 30.

 

But likewise is there any substantive evidence that the order of the sonnets has any Shakespearean authority and was not imposed on them by Thorpe or W.H. or somebody else? Is there no reason that the "story" is entirely a work of fiction, concocted by the anonymous and mysterious Other, but believed to be history by later readers?

 

I'm not saying that the story of the poet and the fair youth is fiction, but merely asking if there is any solid evidence that it isn't? 

 

Cheers,

don

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Brian Bixley < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 8, 2011 2:00:35 PM EST

Subject:      Bio Sonnets

 

What is it about literary topics that makes their discussants pompous and incapable of civilized discourse? I am most recently thinking of John W. Kennedy (pompous: "It is my fashion when I see stark nonsense"; absence of civilized discourse: "rattling off", "squeeze out the gas") Economists, of whom I happen to be one, are often sharp with each other, but they typically replace offensive language with aggressive argument, the two not being synonymous.

    

It is particularly unwise to be rude when your own intervention is of doubtful quality. Literary debate, and the propositions that emerge from it, are seldom 'operational' in the sense of yielding empirically falsifiable hypotheses (yes, I know about the statistical studies of texts, and think them admirable without necessarily being immune from doubt). Nor does 'logic' in the restrictive mathematical sense (pompous: "For thirty years I made my living in the exercise of logic and I see no logic here") have a great role to play in qualitative literary judgments; the most one can ask is that such judgments don't contradict what is 'known', while recognizing that what is known is always tentative and possibly temporary.

    

I am unconvinced by Ian Steere's narrative (though I am not, as I have indicated, a literary scholar), but the effort to tell a compelling tale, to construct a narrative which has an inner coherence, is surely the stuff of which literary discourse is, or ought, to be composed, and should be treated with courteous scepticism. We are not arguing about when the Sonnets were composed, or whether WS could have met, did meet, never met HW, but whether the sequence could have been composed by WS with HW in mind, and whether that hypothesis is more convincing than alternatives. Unless it could be shown that WS never knew of HW's existence (and how would one know that unless HW were born after WS was dead?), there is no way of ruling out the possibility that the Sonnets were composed with HW in mind. So we have to ask whether, given what we know about everything that could relate to the Sonnets, we find the hypothesis not 'operational' or 'testable' but, on balance, satisfying as a tale.

 

Brian Bixley

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         William Sutton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 9, 2011 5:09:02 AM EST

Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Bio Sonnets

 

Hi All,

 

John W. Kennedy: seriously, only falsifiable propositions about Shakespeare's possible biography should be made? 

 

Logic should be made of sterner stuff. 

 

Didn't Shakespeare work more with enthymeme than cold hard dialectic? 

 

The suggestions Ian Steere is making about the sonnets and the relationship aren't that far fetched and he has done his due diligence in researching the matter. And he remains within the biography of the Stratford man. It's not like he's suggesting a scenario involving countless others.

 

You countered earlier in this discussion that we don't even know if Shakespeare ever met Southampton. Now that may be logically correct. Shakespeare had a patron. The patron is acknowledged as Southampton in the dedications to the poems. There is no record of him ever having met his patron. Therefore, Shakespeare never met his patron. But as you know absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

 

Your objective conclusion doesn't make sense from a real life pov. How about Meres evidence about his sonnets among his private friends. Who they? True we don't know 100% the sonnets are to Southampton. But given the evidence we have, it is highly likely. There is a list of scholars that would back up this speculative conclusion. 

 

Speculation is the spice of life. Logic is bland and tasteless, cut and dried. And it does make you sound pedantic and dismissive. Ian was asking for feedback on a speculative biography within the sonnets. Life as far as I experience it isn't logical. Shakespeare's biography too isn't logical, otherwise we'd have the answers already. 

 

I'm not trying to pick a fight just defend a sense of possible discovery. 

 

Yours in the name of Will,

William S.

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Ian Steere < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         December 9, 2011 5:20:59 AM EST

Subject:      Biography in the Sonnets

 

I put forward my article for test of its arguments. It reassures me that a skeptic, John Kennedy, has not established any flaws.

 

However, I fear that John may have been distracted. Is there anyone who has some reasoned input? For those who haven't read it, I can assure you that it is concise. Here it is again: Biography in Shakespeare's Sonnets

 
 

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