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Thread: Shakespeare's sonnets

  1. #46
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    It sounds like it's about illicit, probably gay, sex. I have read that the first 120 sonnets were addressed to a fair youth and the other 20 odd to a dark lady. I would have to take that on trust. IIRC, the more romantic or risque poems in the first 120 poems do not mention the gender of the subject. However the subject of other sonnets in the sequence is male. In some of the early ones, Shakespeare recommends his friend to father some children in order to reproduce himself, which sounds both gay and not gay.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
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  2. #47
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Yes, some are homoerotic and some aren't. The fair youth poems weren't necessarily all written about the same relationship (or the same kind of love/friendship). "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day" (which in my youth was--rather hilariously--a popular one for giving to girls on Valentine's Day) may actually be about someone who dies--possibly Shakespeare's son. Or maybe it's another homoerotic poem for the fair youth. The intensity of the feeling makes it hard to tell.

    I think there was supposed to be a third persona, too.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-02-2019 at 08:05 PM.
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  3. #48
    stanley2
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    Another Key

    Well, in Sonnet 80 we find both "bark" and the rival poet that we are told is in there somewhere. In 134,135 and 136 one finds that Shakespeare may have had in mind more than one meaning in a single word. In 126 we find personified Time(again) and Nature. P.B.'s comment regarding the second to last line of 138 is interesting as we find the same double meaning again in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.: "For that same scrubbed boy, the Doctor's clerk, / In lieu of this[showing Gratiano the ring] last night did lie with me"(MV5.1.261-2). If, as some say, the "lovely boy" was the noble patron of the arts who helped support Shakespeare's work, one might interpret 52 also quite literally: The financial support was a serious matter. As we find a horse in Sonnets 50 and 51, we might also suggest that 52 is a fantasy composed during the long trip to Stratford. "Now will he sit under a medlar tree, / And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit...…….."

  4. #49
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stanley2 View Post
    Well, in Sonnet 80 we find both "bark" and the rival poet that we are told is in there somewhere. In 134,135 and 136 one finds that Shakespeare may have had in mind more than one meaning in a single word. In 126 we find personified Time(again) and Nature. P.B.'s comment regarding the second to last line of 138 is interesting as we find the same double meaning again in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.: "For that same scrubbed boy, the Doctor's clerk, / In lieu of this[showing Gratiano the ring] last night did lie with me"(MV5.1.261-2). If, as some say, the "lovely boy" was the noble patron of the arts who helped support Shakespeare's work, one might interpret 52 also quite literally: The financial support was a serious matter. As we find a horse in Sonnets 50 and 51, we might also suggest that 52 is a fantasy composed during the long trip to Stratford. "Now will he sit under a medlar tree, / And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit...…….."
    Thank you, Stanley, for these references, which have given me an excellent morning's read.

    Sonnet 80

    O! how I faint when I of you do write,
    Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
    And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
    To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.
    But since your worth, wide as the ocean is,
    The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
    My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
    On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
    Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
    Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
    Or, being wracked, I am a worthless boat,
    He of tall building, and of goodly pride:
    Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
    The worst was this, my love was my decay.

    I understand most of this one. The speaker is flattering his patron, who has been favoring another poet and may transfer his support to the rival. He (the speaker) is being excessively modest, but there is a degree of irony in:

    Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
    Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;

    On the face of it, this sounds like more modesty--I'm shallow, but my rival, he's deep. But it could also be read as: I don't take much from you as a client (I can live for less, or maybe I control a degree of my own means), but my rival is going to require a bottomless ocean of your wealth to support.

    That's clever and amusing, but I'm not sure about the couplet:

    Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
    The worst was this, my love was my decay.

    This could imply a number of things. If I'm correct about the irony, then it could be a way of saying: if you choose him over me, the hardest part will be knowing that I loved you enough to warn you. But if this is Shakespeare talking to the fair youth, it could mean something like: I would know I lost my patron because I "loved not wisely but too well." Or it could mean both--or something else.

    I loved Sonnet 50 (about the horse), by the way, but I want to think about the others before I comment more.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-06-2019 at 12:14 PM.
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  5. #50
    stanley2
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    And perhaps 87 was written on the way back to London. Professor Parrott recommended memorizing a few Sonnets, something I've yet to do(too hard). After reading 135, anytime the word "will" occurs in a play recalls the sonnet. So, in the court scene in MV Antonio's speech that begins "I pray you, think you question," ends with "Let me have judgement, and the Jew his will." This and sonnet 42 invite one to compare Antonio, Leah and Shylock with "our poet," the "lovely boy" and the mistress(see my "Brief" thread under MV).

  6. #51
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Sonnet 50

    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 lov'd 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.

    This is the "horse poem" I mentioned liking before. It's self-explanatory, I think. Things get especially interesting in lines 7-12 when Shakespeare draws parallels (sad but also bitterly comical in a way) between himself and his horse. The bloody spur is thrust into the horse's hide in anger, but the anger's object is more likely the poet than his friend (much less his poor horse). In short, the poet acknowledges that he is torturing himself. The pain he feels at his horse's groan is not humane sentiment. He merely recognizes the echo of his inner anguish.

    The last line of the couplet sounds like a reversed version of Kent's (seeming) farewell to Lear at the end of the first act.

    Fare thee well, king, sith thus thou wilt appear,
    Freedom lives hence and banishment is here.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-09-2019 at 08:06 PM.
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  7. #52
    stanley2
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    In due course, there is a nice horse poem by Robert Frost. It's more than a little interesting to compare 52 and 87. In the first line of 52, we also might note the word "key." In MV, Morocco and Aragon ask for a "key" when choosing among the three caskets, while Bassanio says only "And here choose I"(3.2.107).

  8. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Yes, some are homoerotic and some aren't. The fair youth poems weren't necessarily all written about the same relationship (or the same kind of love/friendship). "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day" (which in my youth was--rather hilariously--a popular one for giving to girls on Valentine's Day) may actually be about someone who dies--possibly Shakespeare's son. Or maybe it's another homoerotic poem for the fair youth. The intensity of the feeling makes it hard to tell.

    I think there was supposed to be a third persona, too.
    That brings me to memory, a long ago, I saw a guy reciting to a girl a poem in french. The girl in clouds and all. The thing, it was Baudelaire La Muse Malade...
    Last edited by JCamilo; 06-15-2019 at 09:02 AM.
    #foratemer

  9. #54
    stanley2
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    What happens in the Sonnets?

    "Marry well remembered, / I reasoned with a Frenchman yesterday"(MV2.8.26-7). "Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth / than those old nine which rimers invocate"(Sonnet 38). Or, Shakespeare plainly seconds your suggestion regarding French and Italian poets.
    Last edited by stanley2; 06-16-2019 at 07:31 AM. Reason: typo

  10. #55
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Going back to the subject of the word 'bark' for a moment, I have noticed it once or twice in The Count of Monte Cristo. The publisher of my copy is Barnes and Noble. I wonder if 'bark' is a word that survived in American English, but not British English.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  11. #56
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Kev

    Most on line dictionaries donīt mention "bark" as a ship at all. One exeption I found is Merrian-Webster (noun3), I donīt remember though if it is from UK or US.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bark
    "You can always find something better than death."
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  12. #57
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    That brings me to memory, a long ago, I saw a guy reciting to a girl a poem in french. The girl in clouds and all. The thing, it was Baudelaire La Muse Malade...
    Well, people use art as they find meaningful. It's like in our old Melville thread when one or two LitNetters really needed Moby Dick to be an environmentalist revenge fantasy. Okay, you could build meaning from that--even if the author didn't. GO GET 'EM, MOBY!
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  13. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by stanley2 View Post
    In due course, there is a nice horse poem by Robert Frost.
    I was thinking of the same poem, although obviously the themes are very different. Frost was talking about transcendental apprehension of the absent God. Shakespeare sounds more like he'd just had a nasty breakup.


    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    by Robert Frost

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  14. #59
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I wonder if 'bark' is a word that survived in American English, but not British English.

    It's an interesting suggestion but I am not finding it born out. I just did word searches on bark for Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick (our two best stories afloat). Bark as watercraft did not appear in either. Melville loves the word embark but that's as far as he takes it. Twain is usually talking about hickory bark and sometimes about dogs woofing. You may want to check Walt Whitman's poetry.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  15. #60
    stanley2
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    I think Professor Shapiro reminded us that in Huck Finn there are two clownish characters who quote(or misquote) Shakespeare. I recall on TV the memorial service for a Supreme Court justice where the speaker recited the "goodnight sweet prince" line. Therefore, Shakespeare is to some extent part of American English. The word "bark" is also found in Romeo and Juliet(Capulet, 3.5 and Romeo, 5.3).

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