English Paper: Shakespeare Shakes Free

As I mentioned a few months back, I’ve gone back to school to get my masters; I’ve just completed the first course, Graduate Studies in the English Language, and for the class, I’ve had to do a couple of presentations, plus a paper. Over past few weeks, I posted the first presentation on word formation and blending, and then the second on shades of meaning in Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Those were just a warm-up for the final project, a paper discussing the stylistic elements that are found in three of Shakespeare’s sonnets and how they are reflective of his body of work.

[NOTE: as with the second presentation, this paper discusses Sonnet 135, one of the “Will” poems, and since some of Shakespeare’s contemporary meanings for “will” are, ahem, sexual in nature, be aware that the subject matter and language gets a little lot bawdier than you’d expect in a school paper. You’ve been warned.]


Shakespeare Shakes Free

Literature is an accord between author and audience. The author creates the work within a given genre, aware of audience expectations; the audience reads that work with expectations based upon the genre and register of the piece (Curzan and Adams, 278). With a sonnet, we­­–as the implicit audience–­­have certain formal presuppositions as to length, rhyme scheme, and meter; we also expect the style to conform to our previous experience of romantic poetry. Genius, however, may not be satisfied with such a simple transaction. William Shakespeare composed a cycle of 154 sonnets; at some point, he was bound to become bored with mere generic competence and stylistic adequacy. In sonnets 18, 130, and 135, we find a poet toying with the concepts of both cohesion and explicit audience, playing with the poetics of recurrent structures and internal contrasts of content and presentation, and running roughshod through the intersection of diction and semantics.

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