The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.149 Monday, 24 March 2014
Date: March 21, 2014 at 3:07:25 PM EDT
Subject: RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18
> “Sonnet 18″ is perhaps the most famous of Shakespeare’s 154
>sonnets. It was written in about 1595, and most scholars now
>agree the poem is addressed to a man.
Shall I compare thee to a Summers day?
Thou art more louely and more temperate:
Rough windes do shake the darling buds of Maie,
And Sommers lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heauen shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd,
And euery faire from faire some-time declines,
By chance, or natures changing course vntrim'd:
But thy eternall Sommer shall not fade,
Nor loose possession of that faire thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wandr'st in his shade,
When in eternall lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breath or eyes can see,
So long liues this, and this giues life to thee,
My apologies to “most scholars” but really now, what evidence is there in the sonnet that the sentiment is addressed to a man and what evidence is there that it was written in 1595?
[Editor’s Note: The quoted passage above came from the Open Culture web site and not from me or another member of the conference. This does not mean that I do not believe the statement to be accurate. Having contributed to an online edition of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (1609) <http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/ret/shakespeare/1609inti.html> and <http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/Son/>, I believe there is little argument that Sonnet 18 is the culmination of procreation sonnets, and I dare anyone to argue that Sonnet 20 is not addressed to a man. Ultimately, the gender of the person to whom Sonnet 18 addressed does not matter. Nevertheless, one may be like Benson and rework and reassign gendered pronouns of the Sonnets or like Steevens who was disgusted by them, but the original context of Sonnet 18 appears convincingly as if it were address to the “fair young man.” I will not attempt to argue for the date because I am not knowledgeable enough to do so. –Hardy]