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Sonnets > Our sonnet reads

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message 1: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments The plan is to post the sonnets, one per week, or perhaps less often if the discussion extends, and invite comments, criticisms, interpretations and ideas.

Don't be afraid to say things like "I can't make heads or tails of this one."

And the idea is to read the sonnets as poems-in-themselves, rather than to get caught up in the all too familiar arguments about Dark Lady, Mr W.H., the earls of Southampton and Pembroke, etc. Of course, we will not be too strict about this. . .

The order will be random, except that when the sense of a sonnet runs directly into the next (which does occasionally happen) they may be posted sequentially.

I am following the punctuation of The Complete Sonnets and Poems of the Oxford Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow.

message 2: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
I'm looking forward to this Martin!!!

And I am so pleased you have taken the lead on this and I look forward to being motivated to read and discuss the sonnets.

It's been hole in my Shakespeare experience.


message 3: by Martin (last edited Feb 02, 2017 03:51AM) (new)

Martin | 16 comments To answer a question that has already turned up twice, the order of the sonnets was made up by running a piece of software that puts the numbers 1 to 154 into a purely random order. Just one out the very large number of orders in which 154 sonnets may be read.

But let us be a little more precise here, as we always try to be in "Shakespeare Fans".

The total number of possible orders is,


message 4: by Steve (new)

Steve Evans (steveevansofpahiatua) | 47 comments This approach follows some of the discussion of Troilus and Cressida. It should go without saying but seems to need to be said that any work of literature profits from being studied on its own, shorn of whatever context it may have. That is an aid to understanding and appreciation.

But to not also consider the work in its context, as is the approach here, does not aid understanding and appreciation, but necessarily diminishes it. The sonnets is a whole work, of many parts. The sequence is analytically not accidental and just because it is possible to read a single bit on its own and get a lot of out of it, does not end the many ways of seeing the whole available to us.

I have eaten the baby's foot. I found it in the bathwater. Yum!

message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments I'm just glad we're doing the Sonnets. Thanks Martin!

message 6: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments Steve, rather than argue the point, I would just say "let's give it a try", and I'm hoping that you might join in and make the occasional comment.

message 7: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Dying of laughter!

I think Newton would believe you just summoned some angels as that is some special numerology right out Elizabethan Occult Philosophy. And nice.

I'm just glad you got this going....we are long overdue to talk the Sonnets.

message 8: by Martin (last edited Feb 05, 2017 01:50AM) (new)

Martin | 16 comments The complete read through will take about three years! In case something goes wrong on the way and I am indisposed I have sent Candy a message with the 154 sonnet numbers in the order for reading. In practice this may need occasional adjustment (sonnets 153 and 154 should surely be read together), but I will try to keep our moderator up-to-date with any changes made.

message 9: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments I would just add a little in defence of a random order read:

L.C. Knights in his essay on the sonnets, calls them "a miscellaneous collection of poems, written at different times, for different purposes, and with very different degrees of poetic intensity." To Knights, the main errors usually made about the sonnets are to see them as more homogeneous than they really are, and, because they seem to tell a story, to mis-read them by over-simplification. The best guesses of modern scholarship (see Colin Burrow) is that they were written over quite a long period, perhaps 10 to 15 years, and, like the history plays, not in the order we have them. The last sonnets were probably written first, and the first 60 sonnets were probably written after the following 40 sonnets, while sonnets 104-126 are probably last of all. The earliest reference to the sonnets in Meres suggests informal distribution,

"The sweet witty soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugared Sonnets among his private friends."

And these private friends were reading the sonnets long before they were completed and had taken on their present shape.

My gut feeling is that an ordered read would not suit Shakespeare fans. At one a week, we have a three year schedule before us. If we read them in order we would be on sonnet 26 after six month's work, see the remainder stretching endlessly before us, and feel we'd run out of steam. Sonnets 1 to 17 have a uniform theme, which does not help. With a random read we'll find that even if we stop early, we'll have got some map of the whole.

message 10: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Good arguments Martin, I can now see the value of reading them out of order. Thank you.

message 11: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Very good argument about reading the sonnets over time, out of "order" the event we run out of steam...we would get a diverse set of Sonnets into our heads!!!

I got the schedule for the order of reading. I can not believe it is a three year journey. HOW FASCINATING!!!

How about...lets not get indisposed!!!

message 12: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments I want to finish. One sonnet per week for 3 years. I like it. (We could actually finish all his plays, out of order, at one per month over the same time period. Just saying.)

message 13: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod

Bring it!

message 14: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 170 comments This three year one-a-week plan sounds to me like the king's plan at the beginning of Love's Labour's Lost, and my reaction is Biron's. My own preference would be to do them in clusters of, say, about 6 or 8 in a month, and not necessarily covering them all. Eg 6 of the first 17 would do for that group. After that we could choose 6 by quick guesswork, or even simply do six, miss six and so on. Or do the lot, in sequence, but in sixes or eights. LCKnights's calling them 'miscellaneous' is a massive exaggeration. Accepted that they don't tell a sequential story, they do fall pretty clearly into clusters, often 'answering' the one before, or taking a cue from one a few sonnets away, and building up a cumulative effect. I do think there's a unifying 'story' underlying them, but it's a 'story' of an emotional cycle, not a series of events. I think we'd simply lose all that doing them in a 'scientifically' random order. That said, like Biron, I'll go with the flow if that's what most people decide.

message 15: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments I thought the point of this was to lose the context to get a different view. My understanding is that another group on here is doing /has done them in order. This spices things up a bit.

message 16: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 170 comments Well, ye-es. I see that point, Jonathan. But it rather depends on assuming that each of the sonnets really is a stand-alone work of art. They don't feel like that to me. But then neither do most individual short poems by almost anybody. So maybe that's just my bent.

message 17: by Candy (last edited Feb 06, 2017 07:31AM) (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
I was thinking...that in many ways most f us have been reading the sonnets in the order that we have been introduced or exposed to them...through quotes, school courses and references in secondary literature.

I'm trying to find something I read that suggested they weren't even written in numerical order, that that was perhaps edited into a temporal sequence later by Shakespeare...including when the narrator describes old age, it's possible the writer wasn't actually old at the time...?

In other the spirit of Martin's message #8...where he tells us he has sent me the order for reading the the case of him becoming indisposed, I felt a need to also get a "back up plan."

I felt like what if I got sick, or was traveling, or was indisposed....although it's a somewhat morbid thought it is a reality....and so I reached out to Jonathan and asked if he would consider being a back up moderator.

Here is the gist of what I described as my moderator approach....which I thought might be of interest in general LOL

"I moderate with a very light touch. I've traveled all over the place, working full time....and for the most part I have not had a problem keeping up with our group. A few years ago my husband and I had a studio fire and lost all our art and belongings....and our group discussion in progress back then....was stalled and fizzled out.

But otherwise I moderate gently, setting up threads if need be checking in once a day....but sometimes only three times a week. I have not had to delete any discussion posts. (I have had to delete spam.) on the odd occasion that a couple of our members got into a sniping type of discussion I have messaged them personally to encourage them not to take things personally and resolve conflicts even if they don't agree. Sometimes we've had passive aggressive participants and I email them that their tone could be misunderstood. As examples....but overall it's been that people mark their own boundaries and self-regulate.

I don't like to set out a lot of rules because I believe inventive perspectives are able to flow if we don't place an elite sort of academia or too many rules. Shakespeare can be intimidating enough with out getting all Hierachial on each other."

Anyways...I'm glad to share that Jonathan said he was very much interested in the role, so thank you Jonathan!

message 18: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 170 comments Ok, let's go with Martin's plan. What's the next sonnet? Incidentally, Candy, re your guess about 'perhaps edited into a temporal sequence later by Shakespeare', I don't believe there's any certainty that Shakespeare put them in this order, or even agreed to their publication. I have a little fantasy that he wrote a good many more, that they did make some sort of overall shape, but someone stole them from him, lost some, got the others muddled up and sold them to a printer.

message 19: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments I would like it if we could formalize the readings here. I think it would be good if Martin could post the order of the sonnets here, so that we could get a head start on the reading when possible. Also, when are the sonnets going to posted? Each Monday? If so, Martin, do you want to post them each week? That would be good, but if you need some help with that, let me know.

message 20: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments To throw in my two cents' worth: I'm keen to do the sonnets in random order. Yes, there are benefits to reading them in the context of their 1609 order (and the supposed story behind the sonnets is great fun, however vague and indeterminable it finally is), but I suspect there might be some real delights if we read them out of order.

I suspect that if we read the sonnets in order, our discussion would get bogged down in the supposed biography behind them. Shakespeare Fans unfamiliar with that story would do better do read a good book on the subject.

Also, I'm of the school of thought that thinks the order found in the 1609 edition is highly unlikely to be the order Shakespeare would have wanted.

message 21: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments I do not wish to be mistaken. I tend to agree with Steve, Gabriel, and David that it would be useful to read the sonnets in context. There's nothing wrong with that approach. There is much to be gained by that approach.

But, since there are other groups doing things this way, we might as well set ourselves apart by trying them randomly. I think we have a great group of people here, who know a lot about Shakespeare. I am looking forward to discussing the sonnets with this group, regardless of the order in which we proceed.

message 22: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments Despite some of the misgivings expressed above (starting with Steve), I'm pressing on as planned in post #1, putting up the next random sonnet today. I think, given the popularity of the play reads, which will be going on at the same time, one sonnet a week will be enough.

Any other aspects of the sonnets can of course be discussed in extra threads, which anyone can create. In fact I began one today, for the "dedication".

message 23: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Martin wrote: "Despite some of the misgivings expressed above (starting with Steve), I'm pressing on as planned in post #1, putting up the next random sonnet today. I think, given the popularity of the play reads..."

This is a good project. I'm hoping to stick with it for the long run.

message 24: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
I love this project!

And of course anyone can start a thread discussion! On any sonnet they wish as Martin said in message #22.

For my study and perspective.....poems are small sets. They are created to be small sets and it's completely rationale to read them in any that is one of the most organic pull open a chapbook, or compilation of short stories, or poems, or sacred text...and randomly pick a page.

There is a long tradition of randomly picking a poem or daily reading (an example of ritual reading sacred texts) and the randomness allows for an "i ching" sensation....of the hero's journey.

Jospeh Campbell says the hero's journey is three parts. “the departure, the initiation and the return”. The departure or alienation is part of the success of a hero’s transformation or mythic journey. Separating the hero from ordinary life is a common motif and the hero voluntarily enters a different world, sometimes represented as the underworld, a forest, a mountain, it is somewhere other than her regular ordinary world though, and it is unknown. Although she may have a mentor or guide the hero must step into the unknown world on her own. The hero must now face many tests until she eventually gets to what Campbell calls the supreme ordeal. The supreme ordeal may be one of many forms but Quote “Intriniscally, (it) is an expansion of consciousness” for the hero (1f) Sacred spaces, and theatre are both designed to produce a sense of mystery and awe to the visitor. The enlightenment of consciousness is dependent on the heros separation and the upholding of a secret or unknown world. such reading of opening a book at any old a kind of mini-initiation for the's why we do it. Like an oracle. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable to whatever text appears before our eyes.

In a sense....the randomness fact is a bit like a "surprise". We are allowing ourselves to be surprised...and what inherent benefits are there to surprise? Surprises garner attention, is that surprise can lead to shaping the content of culture.and can prompt shifts that target understanding. There has to be a retained set of information for the transformation, or learning through surprise, to be effective.

message 25: by Bob (new)

Bob Zaslow | 26 comments In sonnet #147, the speaker starts by comparing his love to a fever. But his is a most unusual fever because the speaker doesn’t want it to depart. Instead, he would prefer to put up with the darker, sicker side of his love than leave. His rational mind pulls at the speaker to leave this diseased relationship, but his uncontrollable emotions tell him to stay. His powerful dilemma is, however, he KNOWS his thinking is the safe and healthy course, but his HEART is “past cure,” and cannot be overruled. This strum und dram is actually making him “mad evermore unrest,” and as a madman, he admits he sees the world one way (“I have sworn thee fair”) but the reality may indeed, be quite another. Namely, “black as hell.”

In short, my heart wants what it wants and thinking otherwise won’t change a thing. Furthermore, I don’t give a damn.

message 26: by James (new)

James Hartley | 22 comments Hi everyone. Missed the last few readings but looking forward to this one.

message 27: by Alex (last edited Feb 10, 2017 02:23AM) (new)

Alex Mesman | 9 comments Martin wrote: "The plan is to post the sonnets, one per week, or perhaps less often if the discussion extends, and invite comments, criticisms, interpretations and ideas.

Don't be afraid to say things like "I ca..."

Great idea, missed the previous one(s) but I'll join up. What is the next one we will read?

message 28: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Hi Alex! Welcome to the discussion.

We don't know the next ones...we have been discussion the strange sensation of doing a group read...and not actually knowing what order we are reading the sonnets in Alex. If you read through these comments you will see that different people have different reactions to this format.

We are approaching the Sonnets in a way that might be unusual...without reading in a order of their publishing...or knowing what Sonnet comes next. The Sonnets were scrambled and we are not referring to the result...not yet anyways LOL

As it is right now a Sonnet will be posted here ever week...and whoever wants to participate can come in and test the water!

It's an experiment...and a leap of faith!

message 29: by Alex (new)

Alex Mesman | 9 comments Thank you Candy,

It's a small step for mankind but a giant leap for this group :)
I'm ready to jump.

I'll join whenever I can.

message 30: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Ah, yes, and it so good to "see" so many faces out here!

message 31: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Love this idea, especially since I am taking a break from the plays for a bit. I would like to read the sonnets in the order Shakespeare would have them read... do we have any idea what that might be? Otherwise, I'm good with the random plan.

message 32: by Candy (last edited Feb 10, 2017 04:35PM) (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Janice, some of us here...are reading them in a random order. Martin has a plan and has taken the lead on this small experiment....I'm hopping on the bus...

However, if you want you could certainly read them in a different order...and find them on any number of online Shakespeare sites.

Hope you will join us but I also understand if people do not feel like reading them in this manner....different strokes for different folks!

message 33: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Candy wrote: "Janice, some of us here...are reading them in a random order. Martin has a plan and has taken the lead on this small experiment....I'm hopping on the bus...

However, if you want you could certainl..."

I'm good with the random plan, I was just wondering if we know if S actually collated them himself at any time, and if so, what that sequence of poems might look like.

message 34: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Gee I don't know. I kind of had the impression that we don't have any hard evidence.... does this help?

message 35: by Bobby (new)

Bobby | 57 comments I would love to join this discussion! I've already read them through once in order, so I think focusing on one a week out of the pubkished order would definitely put a different perspective n things and give some attention to some of the less well-known ones. In my own read-through I was surprised to find out they are not all in iambic pentameter, and they are not all fourteen lines long.

Two questions: Has the read already started, and is there a schedule to help us keep up?

message 36: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Hi it's great to see you both here....Janice and Bobby!

I meant to say that earlier Janice!

message 37: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Bobby, if you go to the main page here Shakespeare's Fans... you will see under the section "Sonnets" two topics titled "147" and "152".... they are the first two Sonnets we just started.

message 38: by Stephen (last edited Feb 10, 2017 08:03PM) (new)

Stephen (havan) | 15 comments Just a suggestion...

Some of us philistines aren't familiar enough with the numbers (even the famous ones) to find the number alone a meaningful topic title. How about including a few of the opening words?

Instead of #115
something like #115 Those lines that I before have writ do lie
instead of #147,
#147 My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease

No so much an issue right now but when (and if) folks add comments later it will be helpful to see in the notifications which ones they're commenting on.

message 39: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Well, each sonnet has its own topic thread, with the actual sonnet as the first post, so I think that should suffice. However, I do recall the sonnets being referred to by their first line, much like Dickinson's unnamed poems. It is just such a mouthful to use that naming mechanism on the threads.

message 40: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 170 comments Janice wrote: 'I was just wondering if we know if S actually collated them himself at any time, and if so, what that sequence of poems might look like.' No, it's not known whether he himself collated them or even approved their publication. They were published fairly late in his life but style suggests many may have been written much earlier, or intermittently over a long period.

message 41: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Candy wrote: "Gee I don't know. I kind of had the impression that we don't have any hard evidence.... does this help?"

Huh. Well, now I can see the danger in getting all tangled up in the history and assignment of the poems to events and people in S's life... I much prefer the random choice to these other theories. Thanks for the link, Candy, it definitely gave me some insight into the problem, if not the answer.

message 42: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Stephen wrote: "Just a suggestion...

Some of us philistines aren't familiar enough with the numbers (even the famous ones) to find the number alone a meaningful topic title. How about including a few of the open..."

I think this would be very helpful, tho' maybe extra work for whoever's setting up the threads. I know I will want to refer back to these poems and the commentary, and it would definitely help to have a clue as to which one was associated with which number.

message 43: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments Janice, for the order of composition, see post 9 above. I will follow Stephen's very sensible suggestion and have added first lines to the thread titles of the sonnets so far.

message 44: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 15 comments Thanks for that. It's already making the notification window more useful

message 45: by Bob (new)

Bob Zaslow | 26 comments I just re-read Martin's comment from early February regarding the last line, "Who art as black as hell, as dark as night." I believe you're correct to write that most poets would write, "dark as hell and black as night." If true, I wondered why Shakespeare turned the phrase around and thought perhaps that was his way of saying the speaker has lost touch with reality. What came up was an equivalency with Hamlet, who starts off merely pretending to be mad and then falls into a real madness. Which means the speaker is playing the part of an "unreliable narrator," a rare occurrence in my experience. But this idea is borne out in line 9, "Past cure I am, now reason is past care."

message 46: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Hi Bob! I'm going to copy and paste your two comments here...over to the appropriate topic of Sonnet 147. I think you will get more dialogue as they are lost in this discussion here....okay?

message 47: by Bob (new)

Bob Zaslow | 26 comments Yes. Thank you.

message 48: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (goodreadscomdawn_irena) | 24 comments Hello all ~ just hopping on board this exciting new idea of reading the sonnets ! I absolutely love this idea , but I have been out of touch reading the last play and then family and myself all were sick with flu and colds and other ailments for quite a cirlcle of time all around the household ! HA! I was reading but kept away from messaging for fear I might contaminate through the lines of the internet ! HA!

This is such a great group of Shakespearean scholars ! I really feel lost compared to the well known knowledge of most of you . However, I joined because I wanted to learn more about Shakespeare because I began a love affair with him ages ago in college and never was allowed to pursue my greater interest . My teaching position pushed me away from my favored English World Literary Period to American Literature . Therefore , I came back to my true love in this group .

I am looking forward to the sonnets . I did study the form in school to teach poetry and I had fun around Valentines Day helping my students create modern day sonnets using the correct form , rhyme and meter. It was always a difficult project but the students enjoyed the task once I told them it was like a formula from Algebra except you plug in words to fit ! HA!

I am anxious to read . I need to befriend a few more of you to help me along with your expertise . You are all so very brilliant!

Now , on to read my first sonnet,

message 49: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Wonderful to see you Dawn!!!!

We are all coming at this with a variety of knowledge, and I sure wouldn't want anyone to feel left out or intimidated...I read by flying along....much time not knowing this or that and trying to lear as I go.

We do have a really great bunch of people and coming with a lot of different perspectives....I believe Shakespeare was MADE FOR THE INTERNET!!!!

A perfect format for trying to understand the mystery of his work....

message 50: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments Welcome again Dawn!!

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