Thursday, 4 August 2016

On Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets

When I was offered the new Vintage Classics edition of Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnets’ for review, my first reaction was ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ – who was I to read Shakespeare’s sonnets?

Stupid, I know.

Then I realised that I genuinely had no memory of reading any of these famous poems, and I did an English Literature degree, so I figured it wasn’t too late to change that and gleefully accepted the beautiful new edition.

In picking up the book and sitting down to start it, I was kind of terrified, intimidated, worried. But, why?

The language is tough and there aren’t any notes.
I don’t have a teacher or lecturer on hand to decode them.
I won’t understand them.
What's the point if I don’t understand them?

After reading only a few sonnets I realised that no, I don’t really understand them, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read them.

Just because I don’t understand every word doesn’t mean I can't appreciate the feelings, the phrases and the lyricism. Even the strange words, odd ideas and the fact that I’m reading Shakespeare without being made to is part of the experience!

I’m still new to poetry and maybe reading these ‘Sonnets’ is throwing myself in at the deep end, but I think my lovely friend Caro put it perfectly: “If you have feelings, you’re a poetry reader!” Can’t say fairer than that really!

How do you feel about Shakespeare? Are you a poetry pro?


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