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

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.152  Wednesday, 26 March 2014

 

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

     Date:         March 25, 2014 at 7:04:09 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18 

 

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

     Date:         March 25, 2014 at 6:57:10 PM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18: Gender and Date 

 

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

     Date:         March 25, 2014 at 10:41:43 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18 

 

 

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

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

Date:         March 25, 2014 at 7:04:09 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18

 

Concerning Sonnet 18, what commentators miss is that the so-called young man that the poet addresses here and in later sonnets is in fact the friend the poet later identifies (Sonnet 144) as “the man right fair,” his better angel and spirit. This friend’s angelic, “eternal beauty” that “will not fade” is that of a “spirit,” the higher soul that the poet received (and all youth) receives at about the age of puberty.

 

And what do you know, the woman is also an angel-spirit, the poet’s (and our own) given-at-birth lower soul, “the woman coloured ill,” which accounts for our terrestrial appetites.

 

No doubt, this view will come as a shock to those who have grown up thinking the personalities addressed in these sonnets are real persons the poet loves. The overall conception of these poems is to show ourselves (mankind) as dominated by these forces vying for supremacy within us but which are better when brought into balance.

 

As we saw in the first 17 sonnets, the young man addressed is actually the young poet (who represents everyman) after having had his heavenly visitation. He has been so enchanted by the high state of purity of the heavenly angel, that he now seeks to emulate this friend’s otherworldliness. He prefers this now to the love of his at-birth-given lower soul. He must now be coaxed to procreate and, when this fails, he must be won over by the lower “friend” to a balanced life, since both “friends” are loved and needed.

 

With only the higher soul, we are angelic and unfit for life on earth—we don’t procreate nor have the passion and appetites for defense and nourishment. But on the other hand, with only the lower soul we are as beasts. Clearly, as the poet tells, both “friends” are needed, needed for a life of balance. This is essentially the dynamic explored in the Sonnets and many of its poems directly address these angelic creatures and also, occasionally, address God (see Sonnets 30 and 31) as well as admired mentors, past and present.

 

Unfortunately, many scholars, with some exceptions, have been taken in by the poet’s marvelous representations of his “loves” and they have failed to see these poems as allegorical, presenting the dynamic interaction between the higher and lower souls, personified as the “dear boy” and the “dark lady.”

 

David Basch

 

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

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

Date:         March 25, 2014 at 6:57:10 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18: Gender and Date

 

To the question of what evidence that the poem was addressed to a man, one response could simply be to point to the stated dedication to Wriothesley.

 

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

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

Date:         March 25, 2014 at 10:41:43 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnet 18

 

A contribution to the discussion of Sonnet 18:

 

The sonnet fits well into the thematic progress of the first 17 in its emphasis on the addressee’s Platonic “essence” that exceeds the necessarily flawed material world and that can only be captured in a work of art. The resonances between this idea and Plato’s pederastic dialogues are hard to ignore.

 

Amy Greenstadt

Associate Professor of English

Portland State University

 
 

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