All the Sonnets of Shakespeare, Part 2: “Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love”
Professor Sir Stanley Wells and Dr. Paul Edmondson of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust published a highly original book, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, in 2004. Their approach to these remarkable poems has continued to develop and they have produced a ground-breaking new study, All the Sonnets of Shakespeare, which, in association with Cambridge University Press, is receiving its launch as part of the 2020 Meighen Forum.
Parts One and Two can be enjoyed as a pair or individually.
Shakespeare was fascinated by sonnet forms for many years, and uses them in a variety of theatrical ways. Sonnets sometimes appear as prologues and epilogues; he portrays characters wishing they could write sonnets, intending to write sonnets, trying to write sonnets, and talking about sonnets. And he was innovative among his fellow dramatists in using sonnets as part of his dialogue. His characters speak sonnets, sometimes deliberately, sometimes involuntarily.
By including the sonnet-like passages from Shakespeare’s plays, All the Sonnets of Shakespeare increases the tally of Shakespeare’s sonnets from the usual 154 sonnets printed in 1609 to a total of 181. What dramatic effects does Shakespeare achieve by writing sonnets into the plays? Could any of the sonnets printed in 1609 be thought of as analogous to situations in the plays? Could some of them even be thought of as speeches that might easily have featured in the plays?
This presentation is illuminated by Festival actors speaking some of Shakespeare’s sonnets from the plays.
Professor Sir Stanley Wells CBE is General Editor of the Oxford and Penguin editions of Shakespeare. His many books include Shakespeare: A Life in Drama (1994); Shakespeare For All Time (2002); Shakespeare & Co. (2006); Shakespeare, Sex, and Love (2010); and Great Shakespeare Actors: Burbage to Branagh (2015). He is Professor Emeritus, University of Birmingham, and Honorary President of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Dr. Paul Edmondson is Head of Research for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. His books include Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile (2014); The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography (co-edited with Stanley Wells, 2015); and Finding Shakespeare’s New Place: an archaeological biography (with Kevin Colls and William Mitchell, 2016). He is a priest in the Church of England.