Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0514.  Wednesday, 8 June 1994.
From:           David Joseph Kathman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 7 Jun 94 17:40:04 CDT
Subject:        Authorship (sonnet 125)
I'm sorry, but I can't resist a quick reply to Pat Buckridge's latest on Sonnet
125 ("Wer't ought to me I bore the canopy...").  Pat still insists that: (1)
the first four lines of the sonnet must be taken as declarative, i.e. the poet
is asserting that he did in fact bear a canopy, and that (2) this "canopy" must
be taken literally, as a canopy borne over royalty.  Now, I have no objection
if someone wants to interpret the sonnet this way, but to claim (as Pat seems
to) that it *must* be interpreted this way seems to me a little presumptuous,
and involves ignoring centuries of scholarship and commentary.  If you look up
this sonnet in Hyder Rollins' 1944 Variorum edition of the Sonnets, you'll find
that: (1) the great majority of commentators over the years have agreed with my
reading of the opening lines as hypothetical or conditional (e.g. "Would it
make any difference if I bore the canopy or laid great bases for eternity to
honor you?"), and (2) there has been no shortage of commentators who have seen
the canopy here as metaphorical.  Now, I'm not, as Pat claims, insisting either
that the lines are hypothetical or that the canopy is metaphorical; I'm just
claiming that both of these readings are possible and plausible, and that
critical opinion over the last two centuries has seen them as such.  Anyone is
entitled to disagree with this critical consensus, of course (though preferably
while acknowledging its existence), but to then insist that this contrary
opinion is the only possible correct one, and to base elaborate arguments on
it, seems a little presumptuous and disingenuous.  I don't see anything in
Sonnet 125 to indicate either that Shakespeare didn't write it or that Oxford
did.  I'll shut up now.
Dave Kathman
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