De sonnetten van William Shakespeare

Vandaag is het precies 405 jaar geleden dat Shakespeares 154 sonnetten voor het eerst werden uitgegeven door Thomas Thorpe in 1609 (Stationer’s Register 20/5/1609). Deze Thorpe droeg de bundel op aan “Mr.W.H., the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets”. Maar “begetter” kan zowel “engenderer” (verwekker) als “procurer” (verschaffer) betekenen, m.a.w. die W.H. kan zowel de man zijn voor wie Shakespeare zijn sonnetten heeft geschreven als iemand die deze sonnetten aan Thorpe heeft gegeven.
De meest verspreide opvatting is dat Mr.W.H. Henry Wriothesely (spreek uit: Rootsli) is, aan wie Shakespeare zelf “Venus and Adonis” (1593) en “The Rape of Lucrece” (1594) heeft opgedragen, toen hij deze lange gedichten in eigen beheer heeft uitgegeven.
Lees verder “De sonnetten van William Shakespeare”

“Shall I compare thee” (sonnet 18)

Central meaning: the beauty of this young lady will not fade because Shakespeare wrote a poem about her. Mortal beings can and will achieve immortality through the everlasting power of poetry. Note his high opinion of his own poetry!
The whole poem is in fact a (negative) answer to the question in the first line. And the reasons?
First of all: she’s more beautiful (difference of degree).
But more essential (v.3-8): he’s talking about summer, but between the lines we can read the contrary (his love is more temperate, not so “hot”).

“Love and time”, sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

The title is added by the editor, but it’s a good title, because the main theme is the relation between love and time. It was one of the most influencial themes in the literature and the thoughts of that day. What he says is briefly as follows: the marriage of true minds is a lasting one. True love always remains constant and will survive independently of any changes of heart in the loved one. Time has no detrimental effect on love. True love will survive the passing of time.
The two opening verses echo the formula of the English marriage ceremony in which it is said that there are three kinds of impediments: affinity (e.g. the relation between a man and his sister-in-law), consanguinity (blood-ties) and spiritual relation (e.g. a godfather and a godchild).
First stanza: what true love is not (changeable).
Second stanza: what true love is (constant).

“My mistress’ eyes”, sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare

This sonnet makes fun with the conventions. It’s a rejection of those conventional metaphores, because it made love poetry static (it was always the same). Shakespeare reverses the principle: he says what particular part of her body is not like anything else. He insists that there is nothing conventional about her. All the conventional claims made by any poet in love are not valid for his mistress. She doesn’t need such idle and high-flown comparisons and yet is as fine as any woman who has been misrepresented by the false comparisons of previous poets. Through all this the girl stays sympathetic because she is a real human girl.
“By heaven”: he starts swearing (strong!) because perhaps they’ll say that he doesn’t love her, just because he thinks that her eyes are not like the sun and so on.
P.S. “My mistress’ eyes” should of course be “my mistress’s eyes”, but then the iambic feet would be broken.