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Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets: A New Commentary

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  91 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Shakespeare's sonnets of 1609 are as thrilling and persuasive today as they were when they were first published: perhaps no collection of verses before or since has so captured the imagination of lovers and readers as these. In this stunning new edition of the work, Don Paterson, an award-winning sonneteer and lyric poet in his own right, offers an illuminating and accessi ...more
Hardcover, 500 pages
Published November 4th 2010 by Faber Faber (first published January 1st 2010)
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Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow. I'm just not sure how I feel about this one. Well, okay, I love it. And also I have significant issues with it. What, that doesn't clear things up?

Paterson is a Scottish poet and academic in his 50s (yes, that actually is relevant to my discussion here), and is the latest in a long line of commentators on Shakespeare's sonnets. His edition posits itself to be far less stuffy than most of the crucial texts on these poems (and the publishers have jumped on board that notion, as evidenced by
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly, I am going to be the first person to review this book here! I'd better be very careful about what I say, this is my chance for immortality!
I have been a big Shakespeare fan since we studied in depth 10 of his plays in my last year at uni. I have been lucky to see The Royal Shakespeare Company twice, and I have seen many of his plays in open air performances, such as the Ephraim Gardens near Canterbury or New College during a summer in Oxford. A few months ago I invested in the BBC bo
Roger Pettit
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read several different editions of Shakespeare's sonnets over the years (including one - entitled 'No Fear Shakespeare' - that presented the text of each poem on the left-hand page accompanied by a supposedly easy to follow, updated version in modern English on the corresponding right-hand page!). Scottish poet Don Paterson's edition is, however, much the best that I have encountered. It includes all 154 sonnets. But what sets it well above other collections of Shakespeare's wonderful ver ...more
Timbabwe Sz
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I first encountered Don Paterson in his lecture on
Frost's "West Running Brook" on the Poetry Foundation website.

Listen to his voice and you'll understand the commentary in
his natural tone.

What do I think? Too soon to tell. A rich sense
of detail and understanding from a working poet.
He journals his way through the 154 poems, citing
interesting insights selected from the half-dozen
standard commentaries, dismissing some sarcastically
when appropriate. He'
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves Shakespeare/poetry!
My mum and I adored this book! I gave it to my English teacher as a wedding present, because it was so good. Don Paterson's humour made us laugh out loud. His criticism of the sonnets are fascinating as he approaches it from a poet's point of view. One of my favourite sonnets was the one where Don Paterson attempted to work out a potentially missing or mis-edited word by poetry detective work. His paraphrases of the sonnets are also very witty and helpful in understanding the sometimes convolute ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I mentioned Shakespeare's sonnets to someone who was trawling for poetry recommendations, but hesitantly, as I hadn't actually read them since I was a freshman. Then a few weeks later someone spontaneously mentioned this as her favorite book, so I took it as an opportunity to read the sonnets again, with Paterson (whose work I am otherwise totally unfamiliar with) as a quasi-companion.

The book goes through, sonnet by sonnet, and writes as Paterson says fairly off-the-cuff responses: the introduc
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is so good! There are some really delightful & illuminating insights & interesting analyses, paired with a quite astonishingly casual & hilarious tone.
Most refreshing of all is Paterson's completely unshakable and insouciant interpretation of the sequence as being totally homosexual in intent. And why not? I love that he doesn't tie himself down with maybes. My favourite aside is "For god's sake man: use your imagination" - a big sigh of indignant impatience at the line "one th
Raymond Hall
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent book by Don Paterson giving you an insight to everyone of the Sonnets,what are the best and what are not so great,also he goes into detail about each one and makes them more enjoyable in the process.
Graham Smith
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2018
Don Paterson added tremendously to my understanding of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and to Shakespeare himself. His treatment of Sonnet 135 totally floored me. I still haven’t managed to pick myself up. This is a great commentary!
Eliza Campbell
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
thank you god for a commentary on the sonnets that is openly disdainful of heterosexuality. blessed.
Harry Curtis
Nov 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I've enjoyed reading the Sonnets for a while now, but I wanted to understand a bit more about them. For this purpose, this is an excellent book. However, at times Paterson takes an overly critical view of Shakespeare, which some would say he is entitled to as a distinguished poet, and this can come across as harsh at times. Paterson holds Shakespeare to quite a high standard and, for me, this took away some of their magical qualities, undermining my opinion of them as masterpieces. Perhaps I was ...more
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I have only ever read a couple of Shakespeare's sonnets before and never really saw myself sitting reading a book of 154 of them, never mind a couple of pages of commentary accompanying each one. However, Scottish poet Don Paterson conveys the innovation, technique and drama behind the sonnets making this book a curious page-turner. His commentaries are at times very funny and he brings an enormous amount of knowledge to the subject in an accessible and arresting way.
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I took a very long time to read this book but I feel that is how it should be read as each of the 154 segments is an in-depth piece of critical analysis that must be digested. I absolutely adore Paterson's writing style, down-to-earth, occasionally very funny, intelligent, informed, unpretentious and passionate. Everything an English teacher should be. I will definitely return to this book many times as I am confident that it will never cease to delight, challenge and inspire.
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely book. I really enjoy his style. It's very refreshing. I have navigated and read his commentary on particular sonnets, so haven't finished the whole book yet, but it's a nice one for dipping in and out of. I really enjoy some of the history and background, both to them man himself and to the sonnets. The author has some very firm opinions about Shakespeare and he really brings it to life.
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I picked this as a first taste of the Sonnets before starting with serious academic research, and I don't think I could have chosen better - witty, unpretentious, ruthlessly critical but still full of admiration and passion for the poems. An insight from an actual poet is such a refreshing change after all the linguists and literature experts, and while it may not be the sort of works to cite overly often in a PhD thesis it's in turn an absolutely wonderful and very personal guide.
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book includes the full text of each of the sonnets with Don Paterson's comments. Some of his remarks seemed overly flippant, but it encouraged the reader to look critically at each poem and contained a lot of information and comments on other expert's interpretations. Overall it was an excellent introduction to a critical appreciation of the sonnets.
Interesting, but a little too clever in tone for my taste.
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