n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - “Two loves I have, of comfort and despair”: The drama and architecture of Shakespeare’s sonnets - research

Volume 31 Number 2018
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



This essay was delivered as the annual Shakespeare Birthday Lecture of the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa in Grahamstown in 2017. It argues that Shakespeare’s predisposition to recognise and develop the dramatic moment turned his initial interest in the normally static and contemplative sonnet into the components of something more like an oratorio of dramatic variations in sonnet form. The author focuses on four sonnets (18, 30, 116, 129) that stake out the thematic and structural range of the whole sequence, and discusses how the poet explores the compositional and indeed architectonic possibilities inherent in the principles and procedures of pursuing ‘variations on a theme’. The sonnets can thus be understood as an ambitious proto-baroque diptych, the two halves of which were to present an elaborate allegory of love versus lust, trust versus deceit, and innocence versus experience.

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