Monday, May 13, 2013

Shakespeare's Sonnets and Poems - William Shakespeare


This edition includes: 

Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on the page facing each sonnet and poem A brief introduction to each sonnet and poem, providing insight and context Introductions to reading Shakespeare's language in the sonnets and in the poems Essays by leading Shakespeare scholars who provide modern perspectives on the sonnets and on the poems Illustrations from the Folger Shakespeare Library's vast holdings of rare books

Essays by Lynne Magnusson and Catherine Belsey

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is home to the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, (Image and summary come from

My Review:  April was National Poetry Month, and I couldn't think of a better challenge book than a collection from the Master Poet himself.  I challenged myself to just read the sonnets, and need to disclose that I didn't read the poems in this copy.  (My library didn't just have a collection of his sonnets.  They had Sonnets for Dummies, Shakespeare's Sonnets broken down into unrecognizable chunks, a plethora of books regarding his sonnets, but this was the only copy [The. ONLY. COPY.] in the system that had the sonnets  My word!)

I nearly majored in English in college, and I had a few phenomenal English teachers in high school that had us study a selection of the Sonnets piece by piece.  I loved them.  Shakespeare is unrivaled when it comes to putting words together into a melody - and immersing myself in the sonnets from that standpoint was so beautiful. He is truly the master of the English language, and a master wordsmith.


I've only been exposed to the sonnets in small doses, never straight through as they were published.  This collection was so helpful in that there were essays detailing the speculations behind the sonnets, filling in some background, and a "translation" guide for words and phrases no longer used (or even decipherable without a clue) in the sonnets.    It was so helpful to have a guide to understand the meanings, but in a large dose, I found myself not enjoying the experience as much as I had hoped.  The sonnets in sequence, and read in large doses, show a poet who obsesses over his loves, clearly details joy, despair, anger, jealousy, obsession ... all emotions that coincide with affairs of the heart, but in such a large dose and in such lyrical perfection, it was a little much for me.  I almost felt like it elicited too much emotion!

I was reminded how much I loved reading Shakespeare, and there were a few sonnets that were unrecognized that I fell in love with.  My mom made a good point, though.  Sonnets are best read slowly, individually, and appreciated as such.  Plowing through them as I did lessened my pleasure of Shakespeare's genius.

My Rating:  Three stars.  Individually, there are some sonnets I'd give six stars to.  I'd also like to disclaim that the three star rating is my fault - I don't think I'll read his sonnets like that again.  Will I revisit the ones I love the most?  Absolutely!!

For the Sensitive Reader:  Some of Shakespeare's sonnets detail affairs, cheating, despair, grief, and were a little more racy than I had been previously exposed to.  If you want a list of my favorites, leave a comment and I'll compile one!

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Whew!  April's nonfic/classic challenge is completed!  Onto May - again, suggestions in the comments are always welcome!!


vvb32 reads said...

I started out April with the idea of reading through Shakespeare's sonnets too - via online. But the project petered out. I agree that it is more enjoyable to space the readings. Maybe one or two a month so that there is time to ponder.

Unknown said...

Not even Shakespeare can be on his A-game all of the time!
Is "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck old enough to be considered a classic? I'm slogging through it for the first time, but finding myself enjoying it.
No End to Books (reviews)


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