The Sonnets compiles 154 Sonnets written by Shakespeare on all manner of themes from love and fidelity to politics and lineage. Many of the sonnets - in particular the first 17, commonly called the procreation sonnets - were commissioned, a fact which calls a simple, romantic reading into question.
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The sonnets are among the most accomplished and fascinating poems in the English language. Considering different possible ways of reading the Sonnets, Wells and Edmondson place them in a variety of literary and dramatic contexts--in relation to other poetry of the period, to Shakespeare's plays, as poems for performance, and in relation to their reception and reputation. Selected sonnets are discussed in depth, but the book avoids the jargon of theoretical criticism.
David Schalkwyk offers a sustained reading of Shakespeare's sonnets in relation to his plays. He argues that the language of the sonnets is primarily performative rather than descriptive, and bases this distinction on the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin. Schalkwyk addresses such issues as embodiment and silencing, interiority and theatricality, inequalities of power, status, gender and desire, both in the published poems and on the stage and in the context of the early modern period.
Helen Vendler, widely regarded as our most accomplished interpreter of poetry, here serves as an incomparable guide to some of the best-loved poems in the English language. In detailed commentaries on Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, Vendler reveals previously unperceived imaginative and stylistic features of the poems, pointing out not only new levels of import in particular lines, but also the ways in which the four parts of each sonnet work together to enact emotion and create dynamic effect.
Shakespeare and the Poet's Life explores a central biographical question: why did Shakespeare choose to cease writing sonnets and court-focused long poems like The Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis and continue writing plays? Author Gary Schmidgall persuasively demonstrates the value of contemplating the professional reasons Shakespeare -- or any poet of the time -- ceased being an Elizabethan court poet and focused his efforts on drama and the Globe.