Shakespearean Sonnets – A Review

I’m going to do this review pretty informally because I don’t read a whole lot of poetry and so don’t have a very good standard for comparison. However, as we’re getting down to the wire for finishing 2012 challenges, I needed to read some poetry for the Around the Stack in How Many Ways genre challenge. I’ve always loved Shakespeare and the sonnets were free for kindle, so here we are :)

At the beginning especially, I found the sonnets harder to follow than the plays. They have less of a plot and there’s less time to get into them, although they do often connect to one another and they weren’t too tough to get through. There was a lot of variety in the sonnets so I think everyone will have some they like and some they don’t. Personally, I found some a little wordy, since the first 12 lines are often used to set up a point that is only touched on in the last 2 lines. I realize this is part of the style, with the quatrains somewhat separate from the couplet, but I like the ones where they’re more connected best. The majority of the sonnets, written to a young man the author loves, were particularly hit or miss for me. Some were extremely romantic, like the one describing the author’s heart and eye fighting over where his love’s image resides. Others describing how Shakespeare didn’t feel worthy of the young man’s love were  over-the-top and melodramatic.

Finally, at the end we reach the sonnets to Shakespeare’s dark lady. I loved nearly all of these. My favorite was Sonnet 130 (they’re only numbered, not named), which you can find here. But to give you an idea, it starts “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;”. It goes on to make fun of the other literary cliches so often used to describe beautiful women, but then concludes that Shakespeare’s love is still special even if he doesn’t praise her in an unrealistic way. To me, that’s Shakespeare at his best – witty in a way that can still resonate with people reading his works hundreds of years later. 

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