And no YLS doesn’t expect you to listen to them all in one sitting! Silly sausage! Take it in bite-sized chunks.
Some words of explanation are necessary for each sonnet choice. Sh’s sonnets have fascinated us, as many before us.
Our adventure will differ from another’s. It is unique to us.
The saturation point in memorising them has taken place. A thousand interpretations and permutations enacted of what it is to recite each and every sonnet.
Our way then.
We arrived at an essential core truth of these sonnets. That these words are now nothing but inky marks on a page.
As soon as they were published they became just that. We are not suggesting that they are merely literary exercises, though they are that too.
Your interpretation of these marks is yours.
Some impulse certainly quickened our author to have put these words in this order.
Our pulse quickens when we sense the author as we read them.
He isn’t there at all of course. It hardly even matters he existed.
But he did exist and wrote these 154 sonnets for some reason.
The sonnet form animates dead printed letters into living thought and speech. Acting within the modesty of Nature, yet nonetheless showing her immodest behaviours.
Whether the argument is fiction or faction is moot. As with the plays, your enjoyment is not lessened by knowing who wrote them.
As we recite; we recreate anew a physical, emotional, psychological or philosophical embodiment of a 14 line printed poem.
Obviously we aren’t trying to fix a perfect recitation. That would be futile!
We tried instead to realise the enunciation of the physical energy that is inherent within the words as written.
Plosives, fricatives, sibilants, liquids, aspirants all manners of articulation should get their due.
The soundscape created by physicalising sound provides a mainframe to which the argument clings.
Rhythm and timing is also an important factor.
In singing, the notes and their measure are given.
The content words contain bucketloads of metaphor and metonymy, influencing the argument’s development.
Many of the received ideas in the sonnets were in popular usage all over the poetry of the age. It’s not what he says, but how he says it.
Drayton is not Sidney is not Shakespeare in style. Sh’s style is as Mozart was to music, or Glenn Gould to playing piano.
as opposed to literary,
rendering of the sonnet series
ventures a dryish reading
with a hint of all the bag of tricks
that are inherent in them.
To the best of our ability at that moment of recording, to pull it off without dramatising it in any way. This dramatising itself, the actor’s equivalent set of devices and decorations.
Let’s call this a PLAIN reading of the Sonnets.
We wanted then a reading for the sounds, and not for any particular meaning inherent within the sonnets.
Intent is a fickle mistress. What we intended and what we have done is here for your appraisal and approval. Or diss! Kan ook!
We intend to make another professional studio recording, which will tackle the argument a little more personally.
Some suggestions for individual and series of sonnets:
Numero uno because it starts the series and looks like it may have been placed there on purpose.
Our pet theory: number 4 started the lot.
The dedication of the sonnets sets forth this theory, which wishes the well-wishing adventurer in setting.
But did Sh even write the dedication? Oxford couldn’t have, he being 5 years dead when published.
Thomas Thorpe their publisher obviously got them from somewhere. Why was 1609 the right time to leak out his most personal of poems?
Conjecture aside, it’s a good sonnet filled with ideas that will be developed later in the series. We won’t go into details but remain with the flow of the overall narrative.
But hey, it’s number one and its bound to tell us something about what’s to happen right?
The clue for the first seventeen sonnets is that he’s trying to convince an ostensibly rich, beautiful young man to marry and have children. Thus ensuring he lives on.
Number eighteen is the notorious
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
where immortality through eternal poetry becomes the new meta-theme.
It is oft-recited that the first seventeen sonnets were a commission for his 17th birthday by the Earl of Southampton’s mother. No, not Queen Elizabeth, silly sausage. Maybe so.
Sh always dives straight into the action in story telling. For proof see the first lines of his plays or poems. All of them suck you in, anticipating a reply or further developments.
So wethinks with the sonnet story. For a story there is, though t’ain’t very deep in narrative.
For that depth we refer you to the Authorship commentators. Several of whom may have just snorted in indignation.
We favour Sh. having chosen to do a series of sonnets with a complaint to follow them. We imagine he and Drayton challenging each other. No proof, just intuition. Snort, snort.
A Lover’s Complaint is a mirror image of the sonnet story from a woman’s perspective. And is rarely dealt with, and often dismissed. But you paid your 5d in 1609 and it followed the Sonnets FINIS page in your purchase.
Sonnet series with complaints were all the vogue in the publishing industry of the time.
And besides it sounds and looks like the same writer to us. Read it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s a short read and worth it.
Our theory on the sonnets is that 154 is the number, for the simple fact that it mirrors the maximum number of syllables in a sonnet.
Following Q’s punctuation there’s only one truly masculine end-stopped sonnet (number 150) and one wholly feminine lined sonnet (number 20).
Making a macrocosm and microcosm of the whole event. A unification of the whole in one.
And so back to the numbering.
Number one’s opener
‘From fairest creatures we desire increase,’
requires us to think and can put us to sleep in no time. it’s dense and wordy, whereas in two, three and four the argument develops apace.
Number two with it’s
‘When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,’ opener
is a challenge to the listener, especially if it’s delivered to that person in person. But still a ‘this’ll happen if’ scenario.
Number three’s gambit of
‘LOok in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
is a direct address to the subject but a reflection of direct contact.
We think number four’s direct address and stern alarm is a wake-up call to whoever hears it. Certainly attention grabbing.
Our problem, with this pet theory is that number four is pretty insulting. Basically calling him a wanker and a banker. Insulting on both counts for early-moderns as post-moderns.
We can see number one being the more diplomatic route into the good graces of your subject.
But we also don’t like to read biography into his sonnets.
That they contain deeply and intimately Sh’s personal feelings, yes.
But a re-telling of auto-biographical events in verse, no.
SO when was sonnet one written? Not the year, in ordering. Did he start with it and give up and go back to it? Or did he work backwards from four?
All the time dampening his mood
from Unthrifty loveliness
to Look in thy glass,
to When forty winters
to From fairest creatures.
By way of the dedication, the sequence starts with number four, then one, two, three, then five, six etc.
But the way we have them is as they are. Who can argue successfully with that?
Pragmatic as well as plain.
You can listen for yourself and play them in any order. Nature is in all four sonnets. Growth and ripening, decay and waste,
TIME will TELL
ACTOR + PAINTER + POET
HOME + AWAY
WATCH the TURNS
FOUR in a ROW
EVEN in the MOUTHS of MEN
LILIES that FESTER
END of MUSINGS
TIME + ERRORS
The steps of NO
LUST + MISTRESS EYES
WILL will FULFILL
PUBLISHED 10 YEARS before the rest
And here’s a link to the
Shakespeare Geek reviewing this audio version.
Send your own review to iloveshakespeare at mac dot com