Shakespeare, regarded the greatest sonneteer of all time, had taken the untried in form and substance in his sonnets.
In his time, sonnets followed the conventional Petrarchan form and content that Shakespeare’s deviation was initially disturbing, but much later was subject of interesting analyses. Petrarchan sonnets dealt with conventional love, but Shakespeare went beyond when he wrote of the dark side of man, politics, and eroticism bordering on pornography. He demystified beauty, crossed and confused genders, and poke fun on love. In 13th century Italy, sonnets were begun and popularized by Petrarch.
A sonnet was a poem of 14 lines, the first 8 lines or octet was the opening and the last 6 lines or the sestet was the closing. It had a rhyme scheme, abbaabba cdeede. The conflict in the octet was resolved in the sestet. It followed the usual theme of the ardent suitor yearning for the love of an elusive, extraordinary beauty.
The English sonnet version was by Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard in the 16th century. This was a modification of the Petrarchan in form and substance. This was what will be known as the Shakespearean sonnets. .
From the octet-sestet division, it was divided into 3 quatrains and a couplet for closing.The variation in theme was on the woman-object of love. In the Shakespearean sonnets the once-admired beauty was portrayed as scheming and contemptuous, therefore undeserving of love. Much had been speculated as to why Shakespeare had moved away from the traditional subject of the sonnet.
Shakespeare was greatly admired for the strong emotions expressed in his sonnets which attested to his skill, wit and passion as a poet. However, his portrayals were so real that scholars began to check and compare the characters in his sonnet to the people in his life. It was to a certain Mr. W.
H. hat Shakespeare dedicated the Sonnets.Although the initials T. T.
appeared to have signed or authorized the dedication, was immaterial. T. T. was Thomas Thorpe, a publisher.
Mr. W. H. was the significant one because the poet wished him happiness and immortality through the Sonnets.
The Dedication of the Shakespearean Sonnets goes, “TO. THE. ONLIE. BEGETTER.
OF. / THESE . INSVING. SONNETS.
/ MR. W. H. ALL.
HAPPINESSE / AND. THAT. ETERNITIE. / PROMISED.
/ BY. / OVR. EVER. LIVING.
POET. / WISHETH. / THE WELL-WISHING. / AVENTVRER.
IN. / SETTING. / FORTH. / T.
T. ” The possible Mr. W. H.
as either one of his patrons, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton and William Herbert, the 3rd Earl of Pembroke. It was uncharacteristic during that time to dedicate one’s work. That Shakespeare did so spoke of a close friendship with a Mr. W.
H. Sonnets 1-126 were actually about the “Fair Youth,” who scholars believed to be the Earl of Pembroke. Many suppositions and speculations had been written about the true feelings of Shakespeare for this Fair Youth. Very few would believe that Shakespeare had meant to honor and immortalize his patron in his Sonnets on the Fair Youth.
For Shakespeare not even time and death will change the Fair Youth for as long as the Sonnets exist and will be read. Sonnet 15 promised the Fair Youth “Where wasteful Time debateth with decay / To change your day of youth to sullied night; / And all in war with Time for love of you, / As he takes from you, I engraft you new. ” In Sonnet 18 Shakespeare he assured, “When in eternal lines to time thou growl’s, / So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see ,/ So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. ” Then in Sonnet 19, Shakespeare vowed that “My love shall in my verse ever live young.
Shakespeare had great admiration for the beauty of the Fair Youth. In Sonnet 1, his only wish was “That thereby beauty’s rose might never die. ” In Sonnet 11, Shakespeare showed concern for the Fair Youth. He urged the Fair Youth to marry and have children.
The couplet in Sonnet 11 went, “She carv’d thee for her seal, and meant thereby, / Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die. ” The love of Shakespeare for his patron and Fair Youth had been expressed so beautifully in the Sonnets, it was a love that defied time and remained unchanged.Finally, he summed up his feelings, in Sonnet 116, “…Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds,/ Or bends with the remover to remove: / O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark, / That looks on tempests and is never shaken. / …Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
/ If this be error and upon me proved, / I never writ, nor no man ever loved. There were lingering doubts on whether Shakespeare had authorized the publication of his sonnets. In those times sonnets were very personal poems. In very rare instances poets might have shown them to very dear friends and closest of kins.
Somehow, the sonnets saw publication and the sonnets went under scrutiny for identities of the Fair Youth, the Dark Lady and the Rival Poet. The frequent mention of a Will in the sonnets gave the scholars some clue. They had the idea that the sonnets were taken from Shakespeare’s own experiences and the characters were real people who were part of his life. In the Elizabethan Literature, poets gave such a wide range of emotions to their sonnets.
Their wit and genius wove their way into their works. Shakespeare and his Sonnets stood out through time.True enough even in death, both the poet and his Fair Youth had been immortalized in the Sonnets. In all the quests for the reasons and persons alluded to in the sonnets, none would come nearest to the truth than the theory that the Sonnets were in honor of Shakespeare’s patron who was his Sonnet’s Fair Youth.
The love, admiration, and concern he professed in the first 126 Sonnets were proof of the high esteem with which held his patron. The Sonnets was among the greatest works of Shakespeare. He would not allude to or dedicate it just to anybody. He chose his patron to honor with the Sonnets.