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Home :: Archive :: 2014 :: March ::
Sonnet 18: Gender and Date

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.151  Tuesday, 25 March 2014

 

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

     Date:         March 24, 2014 at 5:15:15 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18 

 

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

     Date:         March 24, 2014 at 6:17:39 PM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18 

 

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

     Date:         March 25, 2014 at 7:36:16 AM EDT

     Subject:    Sonnet 18 

 

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

     Date:         March 25, 2014 at 11:55:24 AM EDT

     Subject:    Benson's Pronouns

 

[5] From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:        Tuesday, March 25, 2014

     Subject:    Sonnet 18 

 

 

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

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

Date:         March 24, 2014 at 5:15:15 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18

 

Concerning Sonnet 18, I think it makes a lot of difference what the sex of the person the man who wrote the sonnet addressed it to. Its words don’t indicate the sex of its addressee, but given a choice between taking it as gush by a man about a boy for seeming a perfect girl, and admiration by a man for a woman, I have no problem with taking its addressee as a woman. I would add that I see no reason to connect it to the first seventeen sonnets, and it seems to me that more than a few sonnets in the overall collection are out of any sequence that makes sense to me. Actually, I’ve always thought Shakespeare was doing his best to keep the friendship of an effeminate male youth he liked and who could help his career without having an affair with him. So he wrote 18 to some woman but gave it to the youth. I think, finally, that we should take a poem to mean what its words can best mean, and I’m politically incorrect enough to believe Sonnet 18 best means the way a man thinks of his sexual opposite.

 

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

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

Date:         March 24, 2014 at 6:17:39 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18

 

To Dom Saliani,

 

The short answer is none. A number of sonnets ostensibly addressed (so it is claimed) to a male addressee can be read as being addressed to women. here have been many biographical contortions gone through simply in order to produce a coherent narrative from a collection that is, in terms of a story, incoherent.

 

Cheers

John Drakakis

 

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

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

Date:         March 25, 2014 at 7:36:16 AM EDT

Subject:    Sonnet 18

 

Dom Saliani asks: (1) what evidence is there in Sonnet 18 that its sentiment is addressed to a man; and (2) what evidence is there that it was written in 1595.

 

As regards the first of these challenges, there is (as Dom, of course, knows) no evidence within the wording of the poem that its addressee was a man—other than that this scenario is not excluded. However, there is other evidence sufficient to support high probability that the sonnet was but one of a batch of poems (subsequently imprinted in the form of Sonnets 1-126), each of which was originally addressed to the same person: Henry Wriothesley. Those interested may read (and, if they want, find elaboration of) brief pointers to that evidence in Seeking the Truths of Shakespeare and his Sonnets.

 

As for the second challenge, the same evidence (taken as a whole) supports the high probability that Sonnet 18 was in fact written some months before the publication (in 1593) of Venus & Adonis. There is little (as Dom is clearly aware) to support a dating of 1595.  

 

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

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

Date:         March 25, 2014 at 11:55:24 AM EDT

Subject:    Benson's Pronouns

 

>Nevertheless, one may be like Benson and

>rework and reassign gendered pronouns of the Sonnets

 

Benson’s edition disfigured the sonnets in several ways, but pronouns were only changed in one sonnet. The intention in that case (sonnet 101 according to the 1609 numbering) may simply have been to distinguish better between the personification of ‘truth’ and the person of the beloved.

 

See Margreta de Grazia, “The Scandal of Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” Shakespeare Survey 46 (1994), pp. 35-49, also also reprinted in “Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Critical Essays,” edited by James Schiffer, 1999.

 

In addition, one instance of ‘boy’ was altered to ‘love’ and in three of his supplied titles Benson directed so called ‘fair youth’ sonnets to a woman (none of the sonnets involved are unambiguously addressed to a male).

 

Most indications of a masculine addressee remain. The very first sonnet printed has 11 masculine pronouns and Benson included sonnets 20, 106, and 110 while leaving out only 8 of the original 154 sonnets.

 

As a whole, Benson’s changes to gender were fairly limited.

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:        Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Subject:    Sonnet 18

 

First, I thank Martin Hyatt for his clarification of the alterations that John Benson made in producing his POEMS: WRITTEN BY Wil. Shake-speare. Gent.

 

Second, I made two statements yesterday that could be taken as contradictory: “I believe there is little argument that Sonnet 18 is the culmination of procreation sonnets, [and] . . . Ultimately, the gender of the person to whom Sonnet 18 addressed does not matter.” Let me clarify.

 

I do not read the Sonnets biographically and have no intention of imposing a biographical reading on them.

 

To me the context of the poems appears to support the contention that Sonnet 18 demonstrates a logical progression from the first 17 sonnets. The shift is from immortality by creating an heir to immortality through the poet’s verse. This is the reason, in context, I read Sonnet 18 as addressed to a man.

 

When I wrote that the gender of the person is ultimately unimportant, I was maintaining that the Sonnet without distinct pronoun reference could in fact be outside of the sequence as we have it addressed to either a man or a woman. It is an expression of “love” full stop—no need to clarify.

 

Hardy

 

 

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