First Readers of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1590-1790  book cover
1st Edition

First Readers of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1590-1790

ISBN 9780367501372
Published May 6, 2022 by Routledge
270 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

For more than four centuries, cultural preferences, literary values, critical contexts, and personal tastes have governed readers’ responses to Shakespeare’s sonnets. Early private readers often considered these poems in light of the religious, political, and humanist values by which they lived. Other seventeenth- and eighteenth- century readers, such as stationers and editors, balanced their personal literary preferences against the imagined or actual interests of the literate public to whom they marketed carefully curated editions of the sonnets, often successfully. Whether public or private, however, many disparate sonnet interpretations from the sonnets’ first two centuries in print have been overlooked by modern sonnet scholarship, with its emphasis on narrative and amorous readings of the 1609 sequence. First Readers of Shakespeare’s Sonnets reintroduces many early readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets, arguing that studying the priorities and interpretations of these previous readers expands the modern critical applications of these poems, thereby affording them numerous future applications. This volume draws upon book history, manuscript studies, and editorial theory to recover four lost critical approaches to the sonnets, highlighting early readers’ interests in Shakespeare’s classical adaptations, political applicability, religious themes, and rhetorical skill during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Table of Contents

The Author to the Reader

Introduction: ‘The Meaning’ of the Sonnets

The Sonnets, their texts, and their readers

  1. The Passionate Pilgrim and Shakespeare’s ‘sugred’ reputation
  2. Texts and editions

    Pilgrim as a sonnet sequence

    Shakespeare’s vendible name and relevant prints

    Supplementing Shakespeare with the classics

    Reading and revising the sonnets

  3. Reading and Revising Shake-Speare’s Sonnets (1609)
  4. Structure, contexts, and paratexts of the 1609 quarto

    Thorpe and the critics

    Sonnets and sequences: Revisionist love stories

    Reading Thorpe’s Sonnet 2

    Annotating the sonnets

  5. The manuscripts of Sonnet 2: Sex, sonnets, and spirituality
  6. Extant manuscript copies of Sonnet 2

    Sexual contexts for Sonnet 2

    Sonnet 2 in politics and religion

    Friends and elegies: Reading Sonnet 2 among epitaphs

  7. John Benson’s sonnet sequences (Poems: Written by Wil. Shake-speare. Gent.)
  8. Benson and Shakespeare

    Part I: Eternity of beauty

    Part II: Miscellaneity and duality

    Part III: A Marriage of perjured minds

    Part IV: Classics and imputed works

  9. Celebrations of Church and King: An early Cambridge reader
  10. Reading habits and approaches

    Cambridge origins

    Poems in praise of God

    Poems to honour the King

    Contextualizing women

    For the love of God, not woman

  11. Restoration revisions: Musical, dramatic, and miscellany readings
  12. Mountebanks and martyrs: Lawes’ musical setting

    Gender, duplicity, and eternal passion: Suckling’s Brennoralt

    Manuscript variants and textual fluidity: Reading and sharing

    Extracts, miscellanies, and new contexts: Adapting the sonnets in the late seventeenth century

  13. Supplementing Shakespeare and creating the canon
  14. Critical predilections: The autobiographical Shakespeare

    Life after Benson: Supplements and supplementarity

    Notes and Various Readings: The ultimate supplement

    Capell’s cento and Shakespeare’s language

    Collecting Shakespeare: Complete and incomplete canons

  15. Edmond Malone: Plotting the Sonnets
  16. The Search for authorial authenticity

    Poems and plays

    The Editor and his characters

  17. Reading the Sonnets after Malone: Independent responses

Debating the poems: Critical annotations

Sonnet sententiae

Reading and editing the eighteenth century

Beyond Malone: The New debate

Sonnet Futures

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Faith D. Acker received her doctorate in Renaissance Literature from the University of St Andrews. Subsequently, and while writing this book, she has taught at The University of Sheffield, Cornerstone Academy, Pellissippi State Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Montgomery College, and Signum University. Her additional work on the sonnets’ early readers appears in Canonising Shakespeare: Stationers and the Book Trade, 1640-1740 (eds. Depledge and Kirwan, 2017) and is forthcoming in Shakespeare Quarterly.