Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.528  Thursday, 5 November 2015


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

Date:         November 4, 2015 at 12:40:43 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnets


First I would like to thank Professor Wells for his post regarding his upcoming article to appear in the soon-to-be-released “Shakespeare Survey.”  Second, I would like to offer him my apology.  When I suggested readers read Booth’s “Essay” and Vendler’s “Art” to learn how to read Shakespeare’s sonnets, I completely forgot his and Paul Edmondson’s “Shakespeare’s Sonnets.”  When I first began studying the sonnets in earnest about three years ago, this book was one of the first I read. It is indeed foundational.  Thank you again Professor Wells.






Quiney Letter

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.527  Thursday, 5 November 2015


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

Date:         Thursday, November 5, 2015

Subject:    Quiney Letter


The Quiney Letter: 25th October 1598


This article is from our archives, and was written by John Benson, Archivist at the Trust in 2011




It was the Shakespeare scholar and editor Edmond Malone who made the discovery while trawling through some three thousand documents relating to Stratford upon Avon in 1793. In a letter of that year, Malone describes the ‘very pretty little relick, about three inches long by two broad’.


It’s a fascinating human document. The year was 1598 and Richard Quiney, whose son Thomas was later to marry Shakespeare’s younger daughter, was in London. He was there to petition the Privy Council for a new, more favourable charter for Stratford and for relief from the latest subsidy voted by Parliament. Times were hard in Stratford at that point: bad weather, poor harvests and two devastating fires had caused havoc with the local economy. Poor Quiney was forced to wait in London for four months. He had been looking for support from the lord of the manor, Sir Edward Greville and, on 25 October wrote from his lodgings at ‘The Bell’ in Carter Lane, London (just south of where the Old Bailey stands today) to his ‘Lovinge good ffrend & contreymann Mr Wm Shackespere’. Quiney asks for a loan of £30 (about £3,750 in today’s money). In fact it seems likely that Shakespeare never received the letter, since when Quiney died after a tavern brawl with Greville’s men in 1602, the letter was included among his papers in the archives of Stratford corporation. It is documented elsewhere that Shakespeare at least tried to help, so maybe the two men met in person instead. In any case there was a happy end, since eventually Queen Elizabeth agreed to relieve Stratford and the Exchequer reimbursed Quiney for his London expenses.




Transcription of the Quiney Letter: 


[ . . . ]




CFP: SWPACA, Shakespeare in Popular Culture Area

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.526  Thursday, 5 November 2015


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

Date:         November 5, 2015 at 12:05:58 PM EST

Subject:    CFP:  SWPACA, Shakespeare in Popular Culture Area


The following CFP may be of interest to SHAKSPER readers.

CFP:  Southwest Popular/American Culture Association

Shakespeare in Popular Culture

Albuquerque, NM

Feb. 10-13, 2016



The Shakespeare in Popular Culture Area is now accepting proposals for the Southwest Popular / American Culture Association’s 37th annual conference, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Conference Center in Albuquerque, NM. We welcome proposals that treat the broad convergence of Shakespeare, pop culture, and mediatization.


Potential topics might include: global Shakespeares; inter- and cross-cultural Shakespeares (and his contemporaries); Shakespearean auteurs; digital Shakespeares; screen Shakespeares; Shakespeare and the digital humanities; and postmodern Shakespeares.


Please submit a 250 word proposal to by

November 15, 2015. Inquiries may be directed to Area Chair Jessica Maerz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Details about the conference, including information about conference travel and graduate student awards, and Dialogue, SWPACA’s new journal, can be found at



Jessica M. Maerz

Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies

School of Theatre, Film, and Television

University of Arizona




Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.525  Wednesday, 4 November 2015


[1] From:        Sidney Lubow <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         November 3, 2015 at 8:30:40 PM EST

     Subject:    SHAKSPER Sonnets: Will’s Some Other Night’s Dream


 [2] From:        Jim Carroll <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

      Date:         November 3, 2015 at 9:57:31 PM EST

      Subject:    Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets 




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

Date:         November 3, 2015 at 8:30:40 PM EST

Subject:    SHAKSPER Sonnets: Will’s Some Other Night’s Dream


Stanley Wells, please read, following your note, my take of the sexual aspects of the Sonnets.


You wrote: 


Readers interested in the biographical and sexual aspects of the Sonnets may find something of interest in my essay ‘My Name is Will’: Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Autobiography’, published in the most recent issue - 68 – of Shakespeare Survey (CUP)”.


Sancho Panza tried many times to convince Don Quixote that what the errant-knight saw was wrong. Sancho was the sane voice of Cervantes. That is to say, he knew very well that the name, Don Quixote, was a pun in a foreign language, English, to curse out the aristocrat who put Cervantes in prison. To him his novel was titled, Donkey Haughty.  A title as opaque as some of Cervantes’ tax records and purchases of wheat and olive oil for the Spanish Armada of 1588. Revenge makes for a great novel. Who knows? The island Don Quixote promised Sancho Panza to govern could have been England, as promised to the Duke of Panza (Parma) for his help as the squire. But that is another story.


I believe with all my heart that A Lover’s Complaint, just as opaque, was written by Shakespeare.  Not one of the writers who address the authorship of ALC on TLS, including yourself, can tell us the story of its relationship to the Sonnets. The only way that I can make any case to prove that I know both poems, is to tell the story of the young man who appears in both poems. He is the same  teenager referred to in ALC, as “Small show of man was yet upon his chin, / His phoenix down began but to appear." (92-3)


He courted the “fickle maid” of ALC, (5) in a “youthful suit” of one who might be thought as elderly, as the “Maid” thought so herself. She said to the old shepherd, “Let it not tell your judgment I am old, / Not age, but sorrow over me hath power.” (73-4)  She took up residence in his home, when she said, “Love lacked a dwelling and made him her place” (82) “in a sistring vale.” (2)  He was so handsome, “That maiden’s eyes stuck over all his face, (81) “His qualities were beauteous as his form.” (99)  Make note of the word “sistring” one of the made up words of the bard to describe the maid as one of the nine sisters attending the god of poetry, Apollo.


Instead of criticizing a poem that a teenager may dream up in his or her sexual awakening, I must suggest that the many commentators hold their criticisms of this teenager’s emerging poetic ability, but instead, to grasp what has been said. The “fickle maid” is the woman the teenager sees in his dream, a Muse, one of the nine sisters, a woman once so beautiful, but still alluring to him, who falls in love with him and finally surrenders her virginity, although she held on to it as long as she could. “And long upon these terms I held my City,” (176) till he began to “besiege” (177) her with tales of his conquests of other women who were rich enough to give him jewels as, “The Diamond? Why twas beautifull and hard.” (211)


I hope that commentators use the imagination scholars possess to comment on my suggestion that the woman might be the famous ‘dark lady’ of the Sonnets, namely, the Muse of tragedy, (“sorrow”) as she told us, Melpomene, from what she has hinted to us as narrator of ALC, who took over after the bard set the scene. (And how does the bard know the woman is “fickle” so early in the poem and so unhappy?) Is there a connection to “that Muse” of sonnet 21.1 that makes one turn and wonder which Muse it was, the word first appearing in the Sonnets so suddenly? Imagining further, this young Shakespeare, in allowing the “Maid” to accompany him on his conquests of many women, who give him jewels for his love along with locks of their hair, in gratitude for his love, until she falls victim herself to his rakish teenage power.  


I need to remind the group that I have told them many times that the Sonnets tell the story of a young man who is in love with another young man in his mirror, as the sixteen-year-old Narcissus did. The three characters of the Sonnets are this young man of ALC and “that Muse” whom he has seduced, who is still in love with him, who now is the woman “colored ill”, jealous of the third person of the Sonnets, the man in the mirror whom the bard loves. A love of himself, “self-love”, (S 3.8) repeated a few times in the Sonnets. This Shakespeare teenager is so woman-loving, so far from Vickers’ suggestion of misogyny, that he goes all the way, disregarding the problems he undoubtedly might face if they were real, to “use” a “wet” dream, “Like usury applying wet to wet.” (ALC 40) and sonnet 6.5, “forbidden usury.”


I could go on and on but I don’t think I need say anything further to this capable group, after she closes ALC with the lines, “Would yet again betray the fore-betrayed, / And new pervert a reconciled Maid.” (ALC 329)  She gives the bard at the end, “eyes to blindness” {S. 152.11) to try to cure his self-love.  The Muse, by the way, wrote the “embassage” (S. 26)  to the Lord Narcissus, son of the river king, Cephisus and the naiad, Liriope, who swam in the stream of the king. She tells him that she is leaving in the couplet, cleverly saying, “not show my head” but returns when he begins to see the “old” crow, (S. 70.3-4, S. 113/12) and things as “black” in sonnet 127, just after the Sonnets’ climax at the end of sonnet 126, when all we see of the missing lines are two sets of parentheses.  She re-appears to haunt him. Shakespeare style.


To those who are familiar with any of the commentators of ALC on TLS, I allow them to send them this post, if Hardy will allow it, to request them to come onto SHAKSPER to answer or convince me or us, otherwise, that as Sir Brian Vickers maintains that Shakespeare plagiarized John Davies of Hereford with ALC, a poet too timid, obviously, to accuse the bard of the crime, there being no record of Davies suing the bard.  Sir Brian does not in his book, Shakespeare, A Lover’s Complaint and John Davies of Hereford, discuss at all the young lad who has not yet started to shave, other than to print the entire poem in the appendix. Pity.


Sir Brian, and Stanley Wells, I agree with MacDonald Jackson and say,”There is a Shakespeare to be found.” And he is not a gay bard. 


Just re-read A Lover’s Complaint. And by the way, please read sonnet 131 where the Muse cleverly makes the young bard see his own face on her own shoulders, lines 11 and 12, “One on another’s neck do witness bear, / Thy black is fairest in my judgments place.”  Further, I consider ALC to be the prologue of the Sonnets which is followed by its epilogue, The Phoenix and the Turtle, where the “treble-dated crow” appears with “the Phoenix and the Dove”  played by the loyal bard talking to his mirror image who rejected him, who was wooed away by the Muse in sonnets 41, 42 and 43 which irritated the bard so much and which he also considered “flattery” because the image  was himself.  But the epilogue too, is another story.


We have lots of things to discuss.  One of the major reasons that Sir Brian considered it "non-Shakespearian" was that ALC was inferior to the bard's later works, exhibiting a lack of respect and awareness of the bard's immaturity, that seems to prove that ALC was an early work as well as the Sonnets being written about a teenager, himself, or thereabouts in age. "When forty Winters shall besiege thy brow. / And dig deep trenches in thy beauties field." (S. 2.1-2) Is it too shocking to think that since the bard lived only 52 years, 1564-1616, that he was only twelve when he wrote the Sonnets and ALC, if one takes those "forty years" as a clue to his teenage sexual awakening? He was a genius, was he not? And he never admitted to writing that wet dream, the Sonnets.  I also write to defend the bard's right not to be considered 'gay' as Sir Brian does not. The difference being that I am presenting the story of a young man telling us the story of Narcissus in love with a young man, himself. 


Think about the possibilities it opens to grasp the Sonnets and ALC on TLS.


Sid Lubow



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

Date:         November 3, 2015 at 9:57:31 PM EST

Subject:    Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


Peter Hadorn wrote:


"“My Lord of Cambridge, and my kind Lord of Masham,

And you, my gentle knight, give me your thoughts.

Think you not that the pow’rs we bear with us

Will CUT their passage through the force of France,

Doing the EXECUTION and the act

For which we have in HEAD assembled them?”


Notice the capitalized words.  When I teach this play, I suggest that 

Henry was probably conscious of his using these words and his intent 

was to make the hairs stand up on the back of the necks of the traitors."


I agree with this argument because both the primary and secondary meanings of the words make sense in that context. However, when I look at sonnet 50 again:


How heavy do I journey on the way,

When what I seek, my weary travel's end,

Doth teach that ease and that repose to say:

'Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!'

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,

Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,

As if by some instinct the wretch did know

His rider loved not speed, being made from thee.

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,

That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,

Which heavily he answers with a groan,

More sharp to me than spurring to his side.

For that same groan doth put this in my mind;

My grief lies onward and my joy behind.


I can’t see how Peter Hadorn’s interpretation of “thrusts” and “behind” make any sense in the context of this sonnet. My interpretation of this sonnet has nothing to with bardolatry or Puritanism; Hadorn’s supposed double entendres simply don’t fit the primary meaning of the poem. In general, I believe Shakespeare was mostly (but not always) mocking the conventions of the sonnet sequence, so sexual puns would fit that interpretation, but the fact is one must strain awfully hard to find them.


In general, when the Elizabethan sonneteers wanted to be sexual, they were obvious about it. For example, Shakespeare’s sonnet 20:


Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,

And by addition me of thee defeated,

By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.

But since she pricked thee out for women's pleasure,

Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.


Another example is Spenser’s sonnet 76 from his “Amoretti”:


Fair bosom, fraught with virtue's richest treasure,

The nest of love, the lodging of delight;

the bower of bliss, the paradise of pleasure;

the sacred harbour of that heavenly sprite.

How was I ravished with your lovely sight,

and my frail thoughts too rashly led astray?

Whiles diving deep through amorous insight,

on the sweet spoil of beauty they did prey,

And twixt her paps like early fruit in May,

whose harvest seemed to hasten now apace,

they loosely did their wanton wings display,

and there to rest themselves did boldly place.

Sweet thoughts I envy your so happy rest,

which oft I wished, yet never was so blest.


Still other examples of blatant physical sexuality occur in Richard Barnfield’s sonnets, addressed to a man.


Shakespeare was mocking something in sonnet 50, but he was not doing it with sexual puns. Here is the kind of thing he was aiming at:


Sidney 41 ("Stella", before 1586)


Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance 

Guided so well, that I obtained the prize, 

Both by the judgment of the English eyes, 

And of some sent from that sweet enemy France; 


Sidney 49


I on my horse, and Love on me doth try 

Our horsemanships, while by strange work I prove 

A horseman to my horse, a horse to Love; 


Fletcher 43 (“Licia”, 1593)


Ah sun! why shine thy looks, thy looks like gold, 

When, horseman brave, thou risest in the East? 


Barnes 82 (“Parthenophil”, 1593)


But I am with thy beauty strongly forced, 

Which, full of courage, draws me like the steed.


In all of these examples, the horse is associated with physical skill, courage and speed. Shakespeare turns this trope on its head by making the horse a “tired” “beast”, plodding along; even spurring does no good. I would say that Shakespeare’s mockery of standard sonnet tropes more often than not takes this form. John Davies, in the introduction to his “Gullinge Sonnets” of the late 1590’s, seems to have had a similar idea with regard to sonnet sequences:


Here my Camelion Muse her selfe doth chaunge

To divers shapes of gross absurdities,

And like an Antick mocks with fashion straunge

The fond admirers of lewd gulleries.

Your judgement sees with pitty and with scorne

The bastard Sonnetts of these Rymers bace,

Which in this whiskinge age are daily borne

To their own shames, and Poetrie's disgrace.

Yet some praise those, and some perhappes will praise

Even these of myne: and therefore thes I send

To you that pass in Courte your glorious dayes,

That if some rich, rash gull these Rimes commend,

Thus you may set his formal witt to schoole,

Use your own grace, and begg him for a foole.


Jim Carroll




Three Text Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.524  Wednesday, 4 November 2015


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

Date:         November 3, 2015 at 12:01 PM

Subject:    Three Text Hamlet


Dear Hardy,


I thought our group might be interested in this rather touching discovery.


I ordered a used copy of Kliman’s and Bertram’s ‘Three Text Hamlet’. When the book arrived I found it contained a letter dated 16 Sept 2002 from Paul Bertram to his editor at AMS Press, Gabriel Hornstein, which read as follows:


“Bernice Kliman tells me that you are contemplating a reissue of The Three Text ‘Hamlet’ that you published a decade ago. If so, I have a request to make of you:


The original title-page reads ‘Edited by Paul Bertram and Bernice W. Kliman.’ Since Bernice has taken note of all corrections and will be overseeing the camera-ready copy for the new edition, would you please change the order of the names (i.e., place her name before mine) on the new title-page?”








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