William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66

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    • The other day I had the idea of arbitrarily choosing a Shakespeare Sonnet to contemplate. This post is the result of that endeavor. For no particular reason, other then the fact that I like the number, I choose Sonnet Number 66.
    • This is a dark view of life. Things are   somewhat redeemed however by the last line, which is a declaration that the object of the writer’s love makes life worth living, despite the despair inherent in existence. There is question that bears asking however: what are these horrific aspects of life that lead the writer to cry for death and rest?
    • Drilling down further I ponder the following line,


       And art made tongue-tied by authority,


       Oppressors, both large and small have a long history of stifling expression. Not just governments, but organizations of all types, public figures, even teachers and family members have used all kinds of authority, from the emotional, to the social, to the deadly, to manipulate artists. Censorship and suppression of expression are one thing, but worst of all, aesthetic works are often twisted and contrived to serve those who hold power. Beauty is thus subverted in a particularly nasty way.
    • I can really relate to disgust over these wrongs that would lead one to question the validity of life. Unsurprisingly an analytical summery of these ills packs little of the emotional power that the Bard infused into the sonnet. Of course expressing ideas in this way is one of the reasons that art exists. When such ideas are expressed by someone with the abilities of Shakespeare, the results are sublime.

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Happy 400th Birthday to our dear friend, The Sonnets!

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It was 400 years ago today that Shake-speares Sonnets were registered for publication. Funny how it seems like only yesterday.

Still, there have already been some interesting articles and new books coming out based on this milestone, and more are sure to follow. There are two that appeared today that I wish to alert readers about.

First, NPR this morning reviewed a new book on the Sonnets, So Long as Men Can Breath, by Clinton Heylin (the review includes an audio clip, a brief article with some quotes from the author, and an excerpt from the book).

The story on the NPR site (by Lynn Neary) has the headline  “Did Shakespeare Want To Suppress His Sonnets?,” and the answer is yes, because they’re homosexual. Heylin is quoted,

“If the sonnets are interpreted in what I think these days would be
considered a fairly normal way, which is that they are about a
homosexual affair with a peer, [Shakespeare] was committing several
criminal offenses,” says Heylin. “It would have been extremely socially
sensitive to have a scandal come out that involved him and a male peer …
[The sonnets] are an insight into who the man was, and it is likely
going to be as close as we are ever going to get into the mind of Shakespeare

Well, we can agree with that last line from Heylin, but not with his conclusion that the love being talked about must be homosexual.

Meanwhile, a second story of interest (400 years young: The magic and mystery of Shakespeare’s Sonnets”) appears in today’s The Independent (London, UK). The image that accompanies the story tells it all:

Pink sunglasses? OK, we get it. (courtesy, Getty images)

Early on in the article we learn that “For every blissed-out ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’
comes a disgusted outbreak of ‘Th’expense of spirit in a waste of
shame/ Is lust in action’. (‘Spirit’ is semen, among other
meanings).” But a few paragraphs later in the unsigned article (anonymous authorship??) we find, “
However universal the passions they dissect, the sequence has several unusual
even unique – attributes. This bard of flesh and soul also knows English law
inside out (‘summer’s lease hath all too short a date’).” Well, that’s interesting. Law and love? What’s the deal with that?

Anyway, the bottom line for both these stories is clearly the homosexual angle. As readers of this site know, there are other ways to look at these verses. I can only suggest that anyone surfing through here today check out Hank Whittemore’s The Monument site for an entirely different take on these timeless verses. It involves sex alright (as in, “Who’s your Daddy?”, not to mention “Who’s your Mommy?”), and plenty of law (as in treason, trial, conviction, death penalty, reprieve). But no pink sunglasses.