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“ to Florio; “given grace a double majesty to Marlowe.) Personal Sonnet (1593-4). Shakspere is about to write
on Southampton's courtship, XXXVIII. Dramatic Sonnets (1593–4). Southampton in love with
Elizabeth Vernon, XXIX.-XXXI., XXXVII. Personal Sonnets (1594). Shakspere to Southampton,
he having known him for about three years, Civ.,
Personal Sonnet. Shakspere proposes to write of the
Earl in his absence abroad, xxxIx. Dramatic Sonnets. The Earl to Mistress Vernon, on and
in his absence abroad, xxxvI. (lovers' parting), L., LI., CXIII., CXIV., XXVII., XXVIII., XLIII., LXI., XLVIII.,
XLIV., XLV., LII. (the Earl's journey). Personal Sonnets (1595). Shakspere of the Earl in his
Absence, XXIV., XLVI., XLVII. Dramatic Sonnets. Mistress Vernon jealous of her lover
Southampton and her friend Lady Rich, CXLIV. (a soliloquy); Elizabeth Vernon to the Earl, XXXIII.XXXV., XL.-XLII. ; Elizabeth Vernon to Lady Rich,
CXXXIII., CXXXIV., XL. Personal Sonnet. Shakspere on the slander concerning
Southampton, LXX. Dramatic Sonnets. The Earl to Elizabeth Vernon after
the jealousy, LVI., LXXV. Dramatic Sonnets. Elizabeth Vernon repays the Earl
by a flirtation of her own; he reproaches her, XLIX.,
LXXXVIII., XCI.-XCIII. Personal Sonnets. Shakspere is sad for the Earl's "harmful deeds," LXVI.-LXIX., XCIV., XCV., LXXVII.
[In ed. 1872 Mr. Massey makes Elizabeth Vernon the
speaker of this group.] Dramatic Sonnets (1597-98). A farewell of the Earl to
Elizabeth Vernon, LXXXVII., LXXXIX., XC. Dramatic Sonnets (1598). The Earl to Elizabeth Vernon
after his absence, XCVII.-XCIX. Personal Sonnets (1598-99). Shakspere to the Earl after
some time of silence, C.-CIII., LXXVI., CVIII., CV. Dramatic Sonnets (1598-99). The Earl to Elizabeth
Vernon ; their reconciliation before marriage, cix.
CXII., CXXI., CXVII.-CXIX., CXX. Personal Sonnet. Shakspere on the Earl's marriage, cxvi. Personal Sonnets (1599–1600). Shakspere to the Earl,
chiefly on the subject of his own death, LXXI.-LXXIV.,
LXIII., LXXXI. Dramatic Sonnets (1601–1603). Southampton, a pri
soner in the Tower, to his Countess, CXXIII.-Cxxv. Personal Sonnet. Shakspere to the Earl in prison, cxv.
. Personal Sonnet. Shakspere's greeting to the Earl on
his release from the Tower on the accession of King
James, CVII. Dramatic Sonnet. The Earl to Elizabeth Vernon on
parting with the Shakspere Sonnet-Album, given to
him by her, CXXII. Dramatic Sonnets (1599-1600). William Herbert's pas
sion for Lady Rich, CXXVII., CXXXII., CXXVIII.,
Sonnets by Herbert, CXLV, CXXX.
CLIV. (by Shakspere).
In the second edition (1872) of Mr. Massey's book he urges that the sonnets written for Herbert were designed to make sport of his passion for Lady Rich, burlesquing the sonnets of “Uncle Sidney,” which celebrated the beauty of Lady Rich in her youth.
[Studies Biographical and Literary. London (No date. ? 1867). pp. 52–55.]
“These Sonnets are mysterious only to the dull, who expect to find a fact underlying every sentiment, and know not that a young poet loves to soar into a region where sentiment is the only fact. . . . It is in this exaltation of the spirit, this yearning after an unattainable ideal, that the floating demarcations of life-facts become confused and lost—that friendship ripens into love, sentiment into passion, and the abstractions of the intellect into veritable experience. The problem of sex is soluble by the poet alone, and by him only in the trance of his genius. As in heaven there is no marrying nor giving in marriage, so in the poetic elysium there is no sex.... The spirit of Plato is 'sphered' more excellently in these sonnets than in any other product of English genius.” Many of the sonnets were addressed to Southampton, who is perhaps the W. H. of the dedication.
1 Mr. Massey's theory is criticized in The Athenæum, April 23, 1866, and hy Mr. Robert Bell in The Fortnightly Review, August 1, 1866.
[A Household Book of English Poetry. London, 1868.]
“Shakespeare's Sonnets are so heavily laden with meaning, so double-shotted—if one may so speak-with thought, so penetrated and pervaded with a repressed passion, that, packed as all this is into narrowest limits, it sometimes imparts no little obscurity to them.” Of Sonnet cxxix., Archbishop Trench says: “The subject, the bitter delusion of all sinful pleasures, the reaction of a swift remorse which inevitably dogs them, Shakespeare must have most deeply felt, as he has expressed himself upon it most profoundly. I know no picture of this at all so terrible in its truth as in The Rape of Lucrece, the description of Tarquin after he has successfully wrought his deed of shame. But this sonnet on the same theme is worthy to stand by its side.”
[An Introduction to the Philosophy of Shakespeare's Sonnets (pp. 82).
The Sonnets are in their first intention philosophical, real persons and events may perhaps be used to illustrate the philosophy. Mr. W. H., “the begetter,” was some
, young man of birth and wit, whose arguments and disputations provoked the poet to embody his conception of the “two loves of comfort and despair.”
Love, as Plato says, is the passion for begetting or creating in the beautiful; beauty is both physical and metaphysical, and love is that of matter, or that of spirit, or that of both matter and spirit. Love of the mind alone, intellectual love, is called, in the Italian sonnet philosophy, the good dæmon; love of the body alone, the evil dæmon. Shakspere deals with the first in Sonnets I.-CXXVI. ; with the second in Sonnets cxxvII.CLIV. The love depicted in the first series (friendship) is a force ever growing, triumphing over obstacles, and becoming ever purer and brighter; while the love sung in the second series (concupiscence) is bad in its origin, interrupted but not destroyed by fits of remorse, and growing worse and worse with time. The two series of sonnets are correlative, and both arranged on the same principle. According to the Platonic sonneteers, love in its ascent is transformed from imaginative love to ideal love. Each of these divisions separates into three subdivisions. In the first division-Imaginative lovelove is (i.) born of the eyes, Sonnets 1.-XXV.; (ii.) nursed in the fancy through absence, Sonnets XXVI.-XXXVII. ; (iii.) generalized in thought, Sonnets XXXVIII.-XLV. Then after the transition to ideal love, sentiment concurs with sense, the heart supersedes the eyes. In this second division
. Ideal love—(i.) the heart, more tệuly than the eye, furnishes the idea, Sonnets XLVI.-LXV.; (ii.) the idea is purified in the furnace of jealousy, Sonnets LXVI.-XCVI.; and (iii.) at last it is rendered universal and absolute in the reason, Sonnets XCVII.-Cxxv. The second series (the Sonnets CXXVII.-CLIV., to the evil dæmon of love, the dark woman) go through a similar descending scale--Imaginative love(i.) love through the eyes, Sonnets CXXVII.-CXXX. ; (ii.) love transferred from the sight to the fancy, Sonnets CXXXI., CXXXII.; (iii.) the generalization of fancy, cxxxIII.,