Tag Archives: Sonnets for Advent
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Sonnets for Advent 24: Sonnet 146

This is Shakespeare’s most religious sonnet and is not unlike the conceit of John Donne’s ‘Death be not proud’. The poem is damaged and in need of emendation since the 1609 quarto repeats ‘my sinful earth’ at the beginning of the second line. Editors over the centuries have suggested more than eighty alternative readings, among […]

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Sonnets for Advent 23: Sonnet 138

This sonnet could easily be spoken by Antony about Cleopatra and their ‘age in love.’ It doesn’t take long for ‘simple truth’ not only to be suppressed, but changed into a web of lies. The poet pretends to believe his ‘love’ in the hope that she might think him younger than he is.The volta asks […]

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Sonnets for Advent 22: Sonnet 136

Sonnet 136 seems to cry out to be read biographically, ending as it does with the poet’s name: ‘my name is Will’. But the abbreviated form of ‘William’ was a word highly associated with sex and sexual passions, as to some extent it still is. The poet’s name loses its capital letter in line 3 […]

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Sonnets for Advent 21: Sonnet 130

In this single poem Shakespeare turns the entire Petrarchan tradition on its head. Instead of praising an unobtainable beauty in romantic and conventional ways, Shakespeare looks beyond surface appearances to what’s really there in the person he loves. Her eyes are not full of sunlight, neither are her lips the best shade of red; her […]

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The Rape of Lucrece

Sonnets for Advent 20: Sonnet 129

Contorted, inward looking, self-loathing, guilty, exhilarating and utterly brilliant, this is perhaps the most famous attempt to convey the feeling of lust in any English poem. Sonnet 129 (like Sonnet 116 two days ago) is not addressed to anyone. Instead, it’s more like a dramatic monologue or essay in miniature. It’s packed with insight and […]

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Sonnets for Advent 19: Sonnet 128

Flirtation, eroticism, desire and envy are all brought to life and woven together by music here. The poet watches the beloved (it’s not clear whether it’s a male or female) play a keyboard instrument and is captivated by the way his or her fingers seem to be caressed by the keys, leaping up to kiss […]

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Sonnets for Advent 18: Sonnet 116

This is certainly one of the most famous of all of the Sonnets, and justly so. But notice how it isn’t actually addressed to anyone. Rather, it reads more like an essay cast in sonnet form. As far as the ideal of love is concerned, the poet here presents it as an unshakeable absolute (rather […]

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Sonnet for Advent 17: Sonnet 113

This sonnet is one of metamorphosis, or perhaps alchemy. The poet’s eye is in his mind and causes him to shape everything he sees in the natural world around him into an image of the beloved (here formally addressed as ‘you’). It’s the same sentiment echoed by countless popular songs through the ages. I’m reminded […]

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Sonnet for Advent 16: Sonnet 106

On re-reading this exquisitely musical poem just now it made me think most of The Winter’s Tale and of King Leontes staring in wonder at the statue of his supposedly dead wife, Queen Hermione, who then comes to life before his eyes. He is almost dumbstruck as distant memories co-mingle with present guilt and grief […]

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