Archive | December, 2013

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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Sonnet for Advent 15: Sonnet 97

This is the first of a pair of sonnets in which the beloved’s absence is compared to the seasons. Shakespeare here evokes winter, summer, autumn, summer and winter, and in that order – as though longing for the beloved disrupts a natural sequence of time. Autumn is ‘teeming’ with fruit which, because of the beloved’s […]

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Sonnet for Advent 14: Sonnet 91

These are a few of my favourite things, but you are better than all these, Sonnet 91 seems to say. For me this sonnet is a good example of how, when imagining Shakespeare as our contemporary (perhaps in modern-dress), equivalents can easily be found. So, until line four, the aspects of life that some most […]

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Sonnet for Advent 13: Sonnet 81

Sonnet 81 itself is an epitaph and a monument in two ways. First, through the ‘gentle verse’ itself as written and printed, and as it will be read by future readers. Second, and even more powerfully, this verse-memorial comes to life whenever this sonnet is spoken aloud. The addressee – and, please note, there’s no […]

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Louis Marder Shakespeare Centre Scholarship 2014

Are you studying Shakespeare at college, university, or for leisure? Are you going to be using the archives or library of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust? You might be interested in applying for the Louis Marder Shakespeare Centre Scholarship (or recommending it to a friend). This annual scholarship of £1,000 will be awarded to ‘a worthy […]

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Sonnet for Advent 12: Sonnet 80

This feels to me like a public poem, a poem competing for the attention of a patron by trying to express a more genuine and heartfelt sentiment in contrast to another’s grander verse. The mention of the ‘proudest sail’ and the image of the boat, or ‘bark’, links this sonnet with Sonnet 86 which begins: […]

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Sonnet for Advent 11: Sonnet 75

It was quite a telling moment when our reader today, Professor Michael Dobson, and I chatted about how to illustrate this sonnet. The abiding and extended image is of a miser, struggling to find peace with his wealth. This is how the poet feels with love: somewhere between enjoyment and doubt. The gaze of the […]

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Sonnet for Advent 10: Sonnet 63

In trying to conquer time, the poet first imagines time’s devastating effects. The ‘love’ of this sonnet (who is definitely male) will have his blood drained, be covered in wrinkles, lose all of his beauty, and will die. But ‘confounding age’s cruel knife’ (like Time’s scythe) will never be able to cut away the memory […]

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Sonnets for Advent 9: Sonnet 55

One of the recurring themes in Shakespeare’s Sonnets is the power of his verse to help the beloved triumph against time. Here he conjures a surreal image of the beloved, pacing forth like a resurrected being among the ruins and in the face of death. Poetry itself enables this and will go on making the […]

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Sonnet for Advent 8: Sonnet 50

In Sonnet 50, Shakespeare’s unhappiness at being separated from his friend is compared to the suffering of the spurred horse that is carrying him ever further away. Surely this sonnet provides at least one example of Shakespeare writing from personal rather than invented experience. It reminds me a little of Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods […]

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