Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.513  Tuesday, 27 October 2015


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

Date:         October 26, 2015 at 7:17:04 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER Sonnets


Peter T Hadorn, you wrote:


So far, the best that I can come up with is that Shakespeare is playing with his reader, showing us what language can do in whipping us back and forth in our attempts to interpret the poem.  Or, if we take the speaker as a created persona, perhaps the persona is unconsciously embedding language that reveals his most personal desires.


Peter, I have been trying to tell the group that the Sonnets were written by a teenager who acted as a new Narcissus in love with himself, his alter ego in his mirror, the “child” of sonnet 17.13 born in the couplet of the 18th sonnet.  This was the same young man who had not yet started to shave, who appeared in A Lover’s Complaint in lines 97-2, “Small show of man was yet upon his chin, / His phoenix down began but to appear.”  You MUST realize that the youth had yet to write his plays or his other major poetry, something that scholar, Sir Brian Vickers and many others who criticize ALC as “non Shakespearian, which displays a lack of awareness and respect for the bard’s immaturity when hi wrote the Sonnets. Some have denied that Shakespeare wrote ALC. 




Peter, I suggest that you read what I have sent a few times to SHAKSPER, my take of the story of the Sonnets. Have your students study ALC and learn for themselves what has been said. It is your task to stimulate them, to add or detract from a thesis that ALC is the prologue of the Sonnets, a poem that appeared in back of the Sonnets in 1609 but was referred to a decade earlier by Francis Meres, as his “sugar’d sonnets”. 


You must realize that the Sonnets, a wet dream suggested by the bard himself in line 40 of ALC, who has seduced the ‘fickle maid’, a Muse who is in deep despair over her poignant fear of pregnancy, one she can hardly explain to Apollo when she, The Passionate Pilgrim, will tearfully return to Paradise. She tells us in ALC lines 300-1, “All meltling, though our drops this difference bore, / His poison’d me, and mine did him restore.”


She will, no doubt, explain it to Apollo that she was in his dream to have a “child.”


You are right, in this wet dream, Peter, “Shakespeare was playing with his reader.” 


I must add that Woody Allen was also right when he narcissistically, said,  “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”


Sid Lubow




This story shall the good man teach his son...

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.512  Tuesday, 27 October 2015


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

Date:         October 26, 2015 at 7:48:57 PM EDT

Subject:    This story shall the good man teach his son...


How did this forum let the 600th anniversary of Agincourt pass without comment?  Officially, that was on Sunday.  Perhaps we forgot?  Let us remember with Harry the King:


...This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,

And say “These wounds I had on Crispin's day.”

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember, with advantages,

What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words--

Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester--

Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered--

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...



But I guess I too forgot to post a reminder last week!


Al Magary




Blackfriars Conference

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.510  Tuesday, 27 October 2015


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

Date:         Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Subject:    Blackfriars Conference


Dear Subscribers,


Later this afternoon, I leave for the Blackfriars Conference, driving through the Shenandoah Valley during the loveliest time of its year—fall with its brightly colored leaves.


I am taking my laptop with me, but it has been acting funny. I believe I have fixed it now, but tomorrow is another story. I will strive to get out Newsletters, as I am able. If I am not able, I will return by Monday November 2.


I hope to see many of you there.





Death of Lisa Jardine

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.511  Tuesday, 27 October 2015


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

Date:         Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Subject:    Death of Lisa Jardine


The following are several obituaries and tributes to Lisa Jardine who died of cancer.


From The Guardian:




The celebrated historian and author professor Lisa Jardine has died aged 71.


Jardine was known for her research into the early modern period and, in the later part of her career, she worked as a professor of renaissance studies at University College London (UCL). She was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Society this year and won its prestigious medal for popularising science, as well as being awarded a CBE.


Jardine’s friend and UCL colleague Prof Melissa Terras called her an “astonishing scholar” and said she would be missed. Jardine was “immensely supportive of colleagues and the causes she cared about, passionate about equality, an effortless communicator and had a vital energy that encouraged and galvanised those around her”, said Terras.

“I only knew Lisa for the past three years, but she became a friend as well as a colleague,” said Terras. “Her research team was family to her, and she will be sorely missed by the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, UCL, and the wider scholarly community.”


Jardine also held honorary doctorates from the University of St Andrews, Sheffield Hallam University and the Open University, as well as the University of Aberdeen. On top of that, she spoke eight languages, both modern and ancient, was a trustee of the Victoria and Albert museum for eight years and a member of the Council of the Royal Institution for five.


Jardine was treated for breast cancer in 2005 and, in a Guardian interview the following January, she said that the experience had led her to redouble her research efforts. “Faced with losing everything, you can’t help but look back on your life so far. And my feeling was that I hadn’t done enough. I want to do more, much more, and my resolution at the start of the current academic year was to work faster,” she said.


As a young woman, Jardine identified with socialism. In the same 2006 interview, she described how her political views had developed over time, saying she had “moderated with age, though I’m still well to the left of Tony Blair”.


She published works on Christopher Wren, as well as on various subjects related to the Renaissance period, and won the prestigious Cundill international prize in history.


Jardine was married to the architect John Hare and she once said that her greatest achievement was her three “well-balanced children”. She was the daughter of the Polish-British mathematician and scientist Jacob Bronowski, who was well known for presenting the 1970s BBC documentary the Ascent of Man and writing the accompanying book.


She was keen to recognise her father’s role in her success. “When I started my career, he said: ‘Make sure you write the big books, Lisa; then they cannot accuse you of being lightweight.’”



From the BBC:




Lisa Jardine: Tributes after renowned historian dies


Tributes have been paid to historian and biographer Lisa Jardine following her death at the age of 71 from cancer.


Ms Jardine, a professor of renaissance studies at University College London and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society, was praised as “inspirational” and a “brilliant communicator”.


Prof Jardine served as chair of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) from 2008 to 2014.


She was also a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum for eight years.

Listen: Lisa Jardine on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs


As an author, Prof Jardine tackled subjects including Shakespeare, Erasmus and 17th Century Holland.


She was also a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and established the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London.

‘Inspiring leader’


Historian Lord Hennessy, a colleague at Queen Mary’s, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Lisa was a polymath. She was a natural swimmer in both the scientific stream and the arts and humanities stream.


“She bedazzled her generation. She had an inspirational effect.”


The UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Prof Sir Mark Walport, added: “She was a brilliant communicator.


“Life, I think, is very much what we make of it, and she really made the most of her life.


“Her work at the HFEA was enormously important because she brought together the science with the public engagement and the debate about the ethics. She was an inspiring leader.”


Historian Simon Schama tweeted: “Lisa Jardine was one of the great historians. She understood that to write of humanity you needed to be fully part of it.”


Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman wrote: “So, so sad to hear of death of wonderful @ProfLisaJardine. A great intellect & completely down to earth. A beacon for women. RIP.”


Lisa Jardine was a regular contributor to the BBC’s A Point of View, and featured on this website for many years. Here is a selection of some of her most popular pieces.


From The Independent:




Lisa Jardine dead: ‘Inspirational historian’ and broadcaster dies aged 71


Tributes paid after academic loses battle with cancer


The distinguished historian, broadcaster and former chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), Professor Lisa Jardine, has died of cancer. She was 71.


Professor Jardine wrote influential works about Sir Christopher Wren, the Netherlands in the 17th century, Erasmus, women in the time of Shakespeare, and humanism, but is perhaps best known for her work as a commentator on history and the arts on television and radio. She regularly presented BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View and also judged a number of literary prizes, such as the Whitbread Prize for fiction.


Tributes poured in on social media, with the artist Grayson Perry writing on Twitter: “Very sad to hear of the death of Prof Lisa Jardine, a brilliant and generous friend.”


The historian Mathew Lyons, a History Today columnist, called her “a profound and inspirational historian, intellectual and writer”. And Professor Anson Mackay, a colleague at University College London, where Professor Jardine worked from 2012, added: “Really really sad to hear that Prof Lisa Jardine has passed away. A huge loss to UCL and academia in general.”


Born the daughter of Jacob Bronowski, the Polish academic who wrote and presented the BBC documentary The Ascent of Man in the 1970s, and Rita Coblentz, an artist, in 1944, Professor Jardine rose to become one of the UK’s most respected commentators on a range of subjects from the arts and history to ethics and current affairs.


When she was appointed as professor of renaissance studies at UCL in 2012, the dean of arts and humanities, Professor Henry Woudhuysen, hailed her as “an outstanding, internationally renowned scholar”. As chair of the HFEA, a position she held from 2008 to 2014, she had to deal with the complex and highly emotional issues about the artificial creation of life and helped to develop a globally renowned legal framework for IVF treatment.


She appeared on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in June this year, choosing music as diverse as “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan to Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor and Mozart’s “Dove Sono” from The Marriage of Figaro.


She was married to the architect John Hare, with whom she had two sons and a daughter.



Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.509  Monday, 26 October 2015


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

Date:         October 26, 2015 at 10:49:09 AM EDT

Subject:    Sonnets


Regarding the ribald, secondary meaning of “key”, I have been unable to access a work which I last consulted several years ago: Gordon Williams’ A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature. In my (perhaps faulty) recollection, this gives many examples of the use of “key” in a phallic sense, within the literature of Shakespeare’s era. I can’t remember if those examples included any work by Sydney, but his Sonnet 79 (quoted by Jim Carroll) intrigues me because of the many ribald secondary meanings. Here it is again (reproduced from Jim’s post):


Sweet kiss, thy sweets I fain would sweetly endite,

Which, even of sweetness, sweetest sweet'ner art.

Pleasing'st consort, where each sense holds a part,

Which, coupling doves, guides Venus chariot right;

Best charge, and bravest retreat in Cupids fight,

A double key, which opens to the heart,

Most rich when most riches it impart.

Nest of young joys, schoolmaster of delight,

Teaching the mean at once to take and give,

The friendly fray, where blows both wound and heal;

The pretty death, while each in other live,

Poor hopes first wealth, hostage of promised weale,

Breakfast of love. But lo, lo, where she is,

Cease we to praise; now pray we for a kiss.


In its wider sense “kiss” means, and has meant, a coming-together (or a conjunction) - a sense still commonly used, for example, in the game of billiards to describe an impact between balls. In relation to humans, of course, the term normally relates to two pairs of lips. But in its wider sense it could be used equally well to refer to the conjunction of other anatomical parts.


Such secondary meaning is affirmed in Williams’ smaller, spin-off work. According to A Glossary of Shakespeare’s Sexual Language, the ribald meaning of kiss is “copulate with”. The work gives four or five examples from Shakespeare. Here are a couple. “In MWW I.i.106, Falstaff jokes about not having ‘kissed your keeper’s daughter’. The clown in AW I.iii.49 argues that ‘he that kisses my wife is my friend’, thereby saving the husband bed-labour”. There is similar double usage in another language, close to home. In French, the noun “baiser” means a kiss (in the sense of osculation); however the same word employed as a verb, “baiser”, means to fuck.


If Sydney intended the “kiss” double-entendre, one would expect similar secondary meanings, consistent with the ribald theme, to appear elsewhere in the sonnet. They do. For example: “Consort” (as an impersonal noun) evokes a union or collaborative effort; the “coupling doves” suggest copulation; the “charge” and “retreat” in Cupid’s fight echo the oscillations of sexual intercourse; “to take and give” similarly points to sexual congress; the “friendly fray” symbolizes the energetic activity of sexual union; “blows” which “both wound and heal” evoke acts of penetration and balm: the “pretty death” suggests an orgasm. 


Against this background we must also suspect a secondary, intended ribald meaning to the “double key” of the poem. This now looks very much like a construct of “double” meaning: it is both a metaphorical heart-unlocker and a phallic instrument which gives conduit to “riches”. It looks remarkably like the “key” of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 52 which brings the rich to “sweet uplocked treasure”.  





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