Christopher Flynn's Reviews > Shakespeare's Sonnets

Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare
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's review
Mar 13, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry

Shakespeare's Sonnets are obviously (so obviously I hesitate to type it here) one of the great achievements in literature, fascinating for being a sequence that coheres when so many attempts like this have been rather mixed. The sonnets are especially impressive on the levels of wordplay - as is almost everything by Shakespeare - with double and triple meanings inhering in half of the individual words and maybe even more of the phrases. The rhythms of the poems are not as brilliant, but this is splitting the hairs of brilliantness, so, they're still quite good.

This edition is my favorite, despite some crankiness in the notes (which make up more than half the book), some rejection of more adventurous suggestions in the readings. It rests along a New Criticism/New Historicism faultline. Its professions - the crankinesses of the previous sentence - are very New Critical. There's nothing on the page but the poem, nothing to talk about but the words, the marks on the page, the metaphors, etc., etc. This, I have to say, is very much out of sympathy with the way I like to read a poem, though there's a lot to be a said for a sympathy with language, something I very much share. But it's presentation of a facsimile text alongside a modernized one is a very New Historical gesture. We get as close as we can get to the artifact of the early 17th century, and this is quite a gift to a reader who cares about such things (like me).

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