Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.533  Monday, 9 November 2015


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

Date:         November 8, 2015 at 12:55:22 PM EST

Subject:    Shakespeare's Sonnets


Following Stanley Wells’ plug earlier in this thread, I splashed out some £78 to acquire the hot-off-the-press Shakespeare Survey 68 (Professor, if you or your staff read this note, please let it be used to claim fair commission from CUP).


I read his article, ‘My Name is Will’: Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Autobiography. It was refreshing to find, inter alia, no mindset against autobiography, no predisposition towards authorized publication and no unbalanced assessment of, or resistance to, puns and sexual allusions. Instead, true scholarship. Thank you, Sir, for a good read. (It was well worth the money! Those interested in the osmosis of ideas and language between Marlowe and Shakespeare will also find within the Survey two relevant articles, whose content I thought impressive).


On the evidence which he brings to his Sonnets article, I am in almost complete agreement with Wells’ arguments. At a minor level, I have yet to share his belief that Sonnet 145 refers to Ann Hathaway or his leanings on Sonnet 26 (suggested as a missive to accompany the manuscript of Lucrece) - but the accuracy or otherwise of these theories is insignificant to the wider picture. Where we differ materially is in the identification (or range) of evidence considered germane to the analysis of the poems and their origins.


This difference in evidence employed brings us, in part, to different conclusions. The professor thinks that the sonnets are probably a “miscellany” or “collection” of poems, including some autobiography, perhaps aimed in part at Henry Wriothesley - but generally composed with large variations in muse, motive and circumstance. He sees no evidence that they are a “sequence” (albeit that he recognizes small sequences within the larger body of the collection). He suggests that the ordering of the poems followed a classification devised privately by Shakespeare for his own satisfaction and that publication was probably unauthorized. He offers no explanation for their arrival in print.


By contrast, and to use Wells’ terminology, I conclude that Sonnets 1-126 are a sequence, though I agree that Sonnets 127-154 (and ALC) form a collection (including miscellany). I  suggest that all of the poems were supplied to Henry Wriothesley under ramifications of a campaign by Shakespeare to secure an intimate relationship - the latter to promote his primary goal of patronage. The ordering of the poems on printing may have followed an original pattern preserved in the original bundlings of manuscript poems (initially stored under Wriothesley’s control) - or Thorpe may have had guidance from the supplier of those manuscripts, Mr WH (of whom more below). 


I have also suggested (I think originally, but certainly independently) that it was Wriothesley’s recorded feud with his second stepfather, William Hervey (the “WH” who, in this scenario, instructed Thorpe), which fueled the mischief of a publication which neither poet nor primary muse would have wanted. This argument (only available if one accepts that Sonnets 1-126 were directed at Wriothesley) is reinforced by its unusual ability to explain all the nuances and peculiarities of Thorpe’s introductory address without resort to manipulation of letters or strains of parlance.  


All of these differential propositions are founded on evidence which has not been considered within the professor’s article. However, it is difficult to do justice to this absent material in just a short note. Instead, since it was tabled for consideration earlier in this thread (see, for example, here - 3rd post down), I should like to illustrate my point with just one piece of that evidence: the Venus & Adonis dedication, directed towards Wriothesley by Shakespeare in his own voice. 


This address includes some dozen ambiguities of expression. The secondary meanings cohere to provide a disguised theme of resentment and remonstration. Indeed this theme hangs together better than the overt theme of obsequious dedication. Its coherence and the sheer volume of puns suggest that the wish to incorporate the disguised theme was a prime driver of Shakespeare’s choice of words. Its messages, having regard for the historical circumstances, then point to an extraordinary relationship between the pair: one that is mirrored with improbable exactness by content within Sonnets 1-126, read as autobiography and as a sequence.


I should add that my argument is disturbed by none of the observations on the poems within the article. These include, for example, references to dating assessments and the apparently extended period of time over which the sonnets were written. And there is nothing in the content of Sonnets 1-126 which would disqualify consideration of these poems as a sequence of compositions, directed towards Wriothesley. Indeed, his history provides other powerful parallels to reinforce the concept. 





SBReview_23: Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.532  Monday, 9 November 2015


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

Date:         Monday, November 9, 2015

Subject:    SBReview_23: Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays




Tina Packer, Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. xvii + 336 pp. US$13.99. (ISBN-13: 978-0307700391)


Lori Leigh Victoria University of Wellington


Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays is the result of a stage production of the same title and of Tina Packer’s long and impressive career as an actor, teacher, and founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, a performance and training center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Packer’s book undertakes to trace a trajectory of female characters in Shakespeare’s writing. This is often done through attempts to draw parallels from Shakespeare’s life experiences and the kinds of female characters or feminine themes/threads he created at any given time—from the start of his young adult career through to his last plays written in “retirement” in Stratford. The end result is a kind of map of Shakespeare’s changing attitudes toward women with plot points from his life inserted along the way. Of course, Packer is also drawing heavily on her years of experience as an artist performing these works—a wealth of indispensible knowledge.


To this end, Women of Will is structured like a play: in five acts—complete with a prologue and epilogue.  In Act 1—the earliest plays—women are either viragos to be tamed or virgins to be won. In Act 2, women shift from being mere objects of manipulation to sharing equal status as lovers in sexual/spiritual partnerships with men. By the third act, women take on even more agency: “all endeavor to tell the truth about what they see and hear. They are courageous” (5).  When we move into the fourth act “all hell breaks loose” (6). Women “are not interested in truth; they are interested in power” (6). It is a dark world where both men and women risk being annihilated by selfishness and hunger for status. In Packer’s fifth and final act, Shakespeare tells a different tale all together. The women—primarily the daughters—redeem the mistakes of the male protagonists.  The act-by-act chronological order, beginning with the earliest plays and closing with the late plays, is a useful structure for telling the story of Shakespeare’s developing relationship with his female characters.


In ‘Act 1: The Warrior Women: Violence to Negotiation’, which focuses very briefly on the early comedies but primarily investigates women of the history plays, Packer demonstrates, despite the predominant motifs of male-dominated politics and wars, how “Each woman shifts the balance of power—and breaks up the monotony of the way men fight” (48).  The section on Margaret is particularly insightful as Packer shows the evolution of her character through all four plays— from a young French woman running around on the battlefield to an English queen running the kingdom much more so than her husband, and finally to a widow living on the fringes of the palace in Richard III teaching the other women how to lament and curse.  It is fitting that Packer’s audition piece for the Royal Shakespeare was Margaret’s “molehill” speech, as she seems to have a deep understanding of the character that could only come from years of intimacy with the role. 


‘Act 2: The Sexual Merges with the Spiritual: New Knowledge’ links the plays that feature lovers’—and therefore heroines’—names in titles: Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida, and Antony and Cleopatra.  For the first time, men and women are equal partners. This is also the first time Women of Will begins to heavily romanticize Shakespeare’s life to hypothesize about the writer’s treatment of women in the plays.  As a practice-led researcher, I am interested in Women of Will when Packer’s theatrical experience is used as evidence to support claims and less engaged when the book draws heavily upon theories of Shakespeare’s personal life.  To this end, it’s a shame that a feminist book such as this relegates Anne Hathaway (once again) to the older woman, the wife Shakespeare got pregnant, and whom he couldn’t possibly passionately love as he did the Dark Lady.  


‘Act 3: Living Underground or Dying to Tell the Truth’ focuses on the women in the cross-dressing comedies, the women in the tragedies (Ophelia, Desdemona, Cordelia), as well as the women in the two problem plays: Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well.  


‘Act 4: Chaos is Come Again: The Lion Eats the Wolf’ discusses the other women in King Lear (Goneril and Regan) and ties them to Volumnia and Lady Macbeth. Oddly, Timon of Athens is also included in this section. There is no discussion here of female characters as Timon only has two bit parts for women in it, but the play is used for Packer to continue her connection of Shakespeare’s life to his plays and argue that Timon conveys Shakespeare’s disenchantment with London life and denotes a breaking point. 


Finally, Imogen (Innogen), Hermione, Paulina, Perdita, Marina, and Miranda—the women of the late romances—are explored in ‘Act 5: The Maiden Phoenix: The Daughter Redeems the Father’. Whereas Shakespeare was drawn to the idea of the hero in the earlier plays, here Packer contends Shakespeare is aligning himself with the artist and the restorative powers of creativity. Daughters are phoenixes, artists who offer a possibility of redemption and resurrection, new life—usually atoning for the sins of their fathers. I agree with Packer that The Winter’s Tale “holds Shakespeare’s deepest effort to understand how women understand the world” (280); further, it’s a formidable argument to suggest the collaboration of the three women in the play—and their ancient archetypes of “the mother, the witch, and the virgin”—bring about the catharsis of the play. 


What is disappointing about the final chapter of the book is Packer’s dismissal of The Two Noble Kinsmen, a play that scholarly consensus now confirms is a collaboration between Shakespeare and Fletcher. This seems particularly unusual as she includes Henry VIII.  Since The Two Noble Kinsmen contains more roles for women than any Shakespeare play since Richard III and offers two very interesting female characters in Emilia and the Jailer’s Daughter it is unsatisfying to omit this play which certainly could have assisted Packer’s overall thesis:  Shakespeare’s increasing aptitude for depicting multidimensional women on stage. 


But this omission undermines what is excellent about Women of Will. The breadth of a work that covers the entire canon of Shakespeare is commendable. Packer has written about (almost, see above) every work and therefore unpacked (pun intended) a wealth of information on Shakespeare’s female characters. It’s astounding really, and I cannot think of another work that accomplishes this feat.  Women of Will is an enjoyable read and a welcome addition to works about Shakespeare’s women. 




SBReview_22: Intermedial Shakespeares on European Stages

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.531  Monday, 9 November 2015


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

Date:         Monday, November 9, 2015

Subject:    SBReview_22: Intermedial Shakespeares on European Stages




Aneta Mancewicz. Intermedial Shakespeares on European Stages. London: Plagrave Macmillan, 2014. Hardcover: ISBN-13: 978-1137-360038; 202 pp. US$90.00.


Reviewed by Jake P. Claflin, PhD. Candidate, Idaho State University


The term “Intermediality” has seen an increased use among literary scholars in the last decade thanks to the digital turn as scholars develop new concepts to articulate how digital technology is affecting both the reading and the creation of literature. Coming from media studies, scholars who explore “intermediality” seek to examine texts that fall between the borders of accepted media forms, such as a live play using recorded video elements, or a comic that incorporates CG animation through a smartphone app. Like many newer terms, such as “multimodality,” “intermediality” is contested. Scholars have varied ideas about what constitutes an intermedial text, the differences between an intermedial text and a multimedia one, and even what the concept itself seeks to study. Still, in general, the concept of “intermediality,” however narrowly or broadly used, is valuable for scholars looking to understand texts in the digital age. 


In her book Intermedial Shakespeares on European Stages, Aneta Mancewicz clearly defines how she is using the term intermediality: “Intermediality is defined in this book as inter-exchanges of media in performance, activated through digital technology, which involve interactions between mediatised (digital) and live elements, in a reflexive manner” (3). Mancewicz applies this idea to a number of European stage productions of Shakespeare plays, mainly on the Continent, arguing that these productions indicate how continental Europe produces Shakespeare’s plays. The goal of this book is to explore how, for Mancewicz, these productions employ intermediality to create new approaches to Shakespeare’s texts. While Mancewicz seeks to develop a new approach, and this approach is often intriguing and the terms useful, ultimately the most compelling aspect of the book is the way it documents important 21st century productions of Shakespeare, and identifies fascinating trends in Continental productions of Shakespeare. 


To develop her approach, Mancewicz develops three new terms: “intermedial texture,” “intermedial stratigraphy,” and “intermedial mirror.” Over three chapters, she explores each term, examining a number of productions to show how these incorporate the ideas present in the terms. A subsequent chapter examines old and new media, basically how productions not only use digital media but also use other more classical media like sculpture and paintings. A final chapter looks at non-digital intermedial productions that still reference digital media. 


In each chapter, Mancewicz examines at least two plays that make similar use of the intermedial concept she explores in the chapter. This allows a reader to see how each concept manifests in different productions, making it easier to understand the reach of her ideas. As a student of multimodality, a theory that examines how we communicate using more than language, I appreciated Mancewicz’s descriptions. She often breaks down the description of the productions into sections, such as “interweaving text,” “interweaving soundtrack,” and “interweaving video” for her description of Hamlice directed by Armondo Punzo. This allows a scholar to get an idea of how the different modes are working together to create the overall production Mancewicz is exploring. 


This book seems geared towards those in media studies, as well as toward Shakespeare scholars. Mancewicz’s prose is lucid and usually easy to follow, but her use of media studies terminology could leave those outside of the discipline a bit befuddled. She also assumes that the readers are aware of Shakespeare’s plays. Aside from the specialized terms and familiarity with Shakespeare, readers from other disciplines, like adaptation studies or multimodality, and graduate students, can follow along pretty well. 


One valuable aspect of the book is how Mancewicz handles the descriptions and analyses of the different productions. Like many of my North American colleagues, I am not familiar with how Shakespeare is handled in Continental Europe. It would seem that one of Mancewicz’s goals in writing this book is to change that, to bring more awareness of Continental Shakespeare to the American and British Shakespeare community. These productions are often radical departures from the more accepted Anglophone adaptations. They rarely use Shakespeare’s original text, and the translations are often modern. In some characters are cut, relationships rearranged, and themes explored in ways that Angolophone Shakespeare often does not. Mancewicz aims to validate these adaptations as worthy of study by suggesting they are not adaptations, but simply productions of Shakespeare, no different than a typical RCS stage production. Mancewicz is reacting to the fact that the term “adaptation” carries a stigma in American and British Shakespeare circles; however, thanks to adaptation studies this is changing and adaptations of Shakespeare are no longer considered to be “inferior” by many scholars.  


Though these Continental productions are often commenting on events and ideas outside of Shakespeare’s texts, Mancewicz takes the time to describe how each director is using Shakespeare’s ideas, save for the section on Hamlet gliwicki (sic.). Mancewicz does an excellent job of describing how Hamlet gliwicki employs intermedial elements, such as live and recorded video projected on the stage. Unlike her description of the other productions in the book, for Hamlet gliwicki she does not mention much of how the play is related to Hamlet, except for some references to the mother-son relationship in Hamlet and between Lachmann and his mother. This leaves a reader wondering just how this production uses content from Hamlet


Though the concept of “intermediality” may only be of interest to a small number of scholars working in intermediality or related theories, the fact that Mancewicz focuses on Continental European productions of Shakespeare that are radical departures from the text helps to bolster the idea that there is no “correct” was to produce a Shakespeare play. The book offers a valuable record of productions that many North American scholars would have missed completely. Indeed, for this reader, while the theoretical terms were helpful in identifying certain ways that varied media can work together, ultimately the examples Mancewicz uses were the best part, which allow a reader to get a good sense of just what is going on in 21st century European Shakespeare. 




Contending with Shakespeare through Adaptation

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.530  Friday, 6 November 2015


From:        Verena Theile <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         November 5, 2015 at 4:34:38 PM EST

Subject:    Re: Contending with Shakespeare through Adaptation


[Editor’s Note: The original posting of this CFP had the date incorrect. Below is a corrected version of that CFP. –Hardy]


CFP for edited collection, Contending with Shakespeare through Adaptation 


Chapter proposals are invited for a collection of essays that will explore Shakespearean adaptations as statements, often assertions about the nature of the work they engage. That adaptations have contributed to Shakespeare’s afterlife cannot be disputed. They are re-imaginings of his work in a new context and against a new medium, and, as such, adaptations of Shakespeare are derivative and unique at the same time. With that premise in mind, the history of Shakespeare in adaptation may also uncover the history of assumptions about what Shakespeare constitutes–as a playwright, poet, cultural icon, or otherwise. 


The collection we envision will take up adaptations and appropriations with a focus on what these new products reveal about Shakespeare’s parameters or limits. Accordingly, we seek essays that explore cases of appropriation that help bring these limitations to light and confront the implications of transposing Shakespeare to a particular situation or audience. Essays might consider, for example, unexpected failures in appropriation; critically controversial productions or editions; adaptations that explicitly address conflicts in Shakespeare’s reception; or any other instance where a particular appropriation of Shakespeare helped draw attention to unexamined preconceptions of his literary or cultural stature. 


Please submit enquiries, chapter proposals (500 words), or drafts of essays (7,500 words) to the editors Verena Theile (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Adam Kitzes This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by December 1, 2015



This Rough Magic

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.529  Friday, 6 November 2015


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

Date:         Friday, November 6, 2015

Subject:    This Rough Magic


This Rough Magic

A Peer-Reviewed, Academic, Online Journal

Dedicated to the Teaching of Medieval and Renaissance Literature 


This Rough Magic was co-founded in 2009 by Michael Boecherer and Bente Videbaek.


This Rough Magic is a journal dedicated to the art of teaching Medieval and Renaissance Literature. We are seeking academic, teachable articles. 


We are proudly listed on / indexed in the following:

We are seeking academic, teachable articles. Essays could focus on, but are not limited to, the following categories:

  • Authorship & Genre
  • Narrative Structure
  • Poetry/Drama
  • Epic/Nation/Empire
  • History
  • Religion/Superstition
  • Philosophy/Rhetoric
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender & Sexuality
  • Art


Editorial Board Information


Editorial board members are affiliated with the following academic institutions and organizations:


Current Editors


If you are interested in joining This Rough Magic’s editorial staff, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Michael Boecherer.



Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.