Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shakespeare's First(?) Sonnet

http://akfarrar.vox.com/library/post/shakespeares-oldest.html

Our very own Alan K Farrar (how many blogs do you *have*, Alan???) reciting Shakespeare's sonnet 145, labelled as his "oldest piece of writing, written when he was around 18 to his wife, Ann Hathaway."

I'm curious - do we know that to be fact (or at least, strongly evidenced theory)?  This is the "I hate from hate away she threw" sonnet, which is typically considered a direct reference to his wife ("hate away" -> "Hathaway").  But I'm not sure where the logic comes from that it is the first?  I realize that they were not published or numbered in chronological order, so the 145 doesn't bother me so much.  I'll call it the first if somebody explains to me why it is, and not just because it doesn't fit the same iambic pentameter structure of all the others and thus must have been an early effort.  That logic could just as well demonstrate that Shakespeare didn't write that one at all.

15 comments:

Alan K.Farrar said...

Much easier on the straight Shakespeare blog - the other is a mirror site. Fairly standard argument re first sonnet (Greer (bbke) will help [pg 58] - although, again, my Shakespeare blog did mention it - http://shakespearence.blogspot.com/2008/03/aways-need-to-prepare.html
(click on sonnet link).

Robin Williams said...

Ah, Duane, look out -- you're starting to express the kinds of doubts that lead one to authorship queries! :-) I find it *really* annoying when people make hypothetical statements sound like documented facts. "Shakespeare's first sonnet, written when he was 18 to his wife Ann Hathaway." There's not one shred of evidence that this is a fact, so please don't claim it as one.

Don Foster, the Vassar professor who "proved" the Funeral Elegy was written by Shakespeare (and someone else recently "proved" it wasn't) said, "In my field of literary criticism, we rarely prove anything. We merely write incredibly clever commentary."

"Incredibly clever commentary" (a la Greer) does not a truth make.

with a smile,
Robin Williams

Alan K.Farrar said...

Time to sling my hook - just another stupid 'never read the book' (or the blog) comment from the comedian above.

Bye cruel world ....

Duane said...

Listen! You two play nice together down here in the comments or I will turn this blog around!

You're both right - Alan does properly cite his evidence in the other blog (basically he's agreeing with Gurr's argument, I'll have to look up what exactly that is), but Robin's right in that the other blog post I cited makes no reference to this, and merely states "Shakespeare's First Sonnet" as if it were fact.

Greer really has little to do with it (she basically just footnotes the same Gurr argument), I think Alan just put her in there because he knows I'm in the middle of the book.

Alan K.Farrar said...

And because she (Greer - bbke)doesn't seem to actually accept the argument - distinctly luke-warm if you ask me.

(If you think That is not nice - you should see what I posted on my Shakespeare blog!)

How come you picked out the vox blog by the way? I only set it up to try to use 'Scribefire' - a great little add on which doesn't work on Vox.

I have around 9 blogs in answer to your question - but the blogger.com ones are the centre around which the rest revolve. The rest are mirror or feeder.

xnzkfak

Duane said...

I have a variety of alerts on Shakespeare blog references (delicious, technorati, google, etc...) and often I read them on my ipod, where I get only a blurb and a headline - not the blog title or author - before deciding whether to mark it for later reading. In this case your Vox post caught my eye first, without my ever realizing what or who it was, until I got back to my computer to write about it. Had you posted similiar items on other blogs they might well have been in the feed as well, although I could easily have swept past them given the literally hundreds of posts I had to scan dealing with Shakey's birthday this week.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Cor bl'me! Very tempted to confirm you in the position of Geek - that sounded distinctly technical and seriously manic - all posts on Shakey's birthday? ALL? Take a holiday (we're on Easter here and I'll let you have a bit of that).
Just for reference - anything of mine with a Shakespeare connection of any worth will have been posted on the main site 'in original' (there's even a hint of an explanation of the video) - or at least linked on it.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Oh - and thank you for the original post (which I meant to do, and should have done, in the first post)

catkins said...

The argument is very simple. Andrew Gurr merely argued that "hate away" is a pun on "Hathaway" and that therefore Sonnet 145 was written while Shakespeare was courting Anne Hathaway and thus was an "early" sonnet. This then became fodder for pronouncing it the "first" sonnet. Others doubt its provenance. Ingram and Redpath, for instance, say: "These trivial octosyllables scarcely deserve reprinting."

Alan K.Farrar said...

I do recommend people to read what Gurr actually wrote:

http://willyshakes.com/sonnet/index.htm

And I'd have thought anything by Shakespeare was at least worth a nod.

Alan K.Farrar said...

2nd version with attempted original pronunciation ...

http://shakespearence.blogspot.com/2008/04/its-not-what-you-do.html

catkins said...

Thanks for the link to Gurr's article, Alan, I hadn't read it in a while. It typically has both conjecture and incorrect inference. First he hypothesizes a rather stretched pun (notice how hard he has to work to try to make "hate away" a reasoable approximation of "Hathaway") and then he decides he must be right because it is the only way to explain the contortions of poem. Malone (in 1790), on the other hand, noted a similar technique in The Rape of Lucrece (lines 1534-40) where Lucrece starts saying one thing, then stops herself, removes "can lurk" from the sentence and reverses its meaning. I agree with Malone that this is a more elaborate (if clumsier) form of the technique. I offer this critique on Gurr only because I think there is little to favor either the pun or the "first sonnet" idea. The issue of whether the poem "deserves a nod" revolves precisely around the question of its authenticity. "Rudimentary" is the adjective that Harbage uses to describe it and Ingram and Redpath (great editors, make no mistake) say "the question of this sonnet's authenticity is as unimportant as the poem itself." The poem has its champions, though. Peter Ramsey calls it "charming and flawless, a little masterpiece of tone." I am willing to side toward Ramsey's view and I picture Shakespeare playing with an old joke and tossing off this sonnet as a result. I just don't buy the pun. As for the "original pronunciation," there is as much controversy about that as anything else Shakespearian. The two greatest experts are Kokeritz and Cercignani. They are both difficult to read if you are not a language expert (I am not). In a nutshell, though, you can tell a certain amount about pronunciation from puns and rhymes. However, I find that there is a great deal of inconsistency here, such as contradictory rhyme pairs (e.g., "jollity" rhymes with "cry" in one place and with "be" in another). I sure hope Shakespeare didn't talk like the guy in that recording. Anyway, I sure wouldn't try reading any of the Sonnets that way!

Alan K.Farrar said...

Get your ears around this one (if the link will fit):
http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=4761275&m=4761276

(I've linked it on my blog is it doesn't).

Apart from other things - it resolves your 'be' issue (yep - they DO rhyme).

Alan K.Farrar said...

Sorry link didn't fit - try this:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/5mreln

(worth listening to for anyone interested in original pronunciation)

william S. said...

The foremost modern scholar on Original Pronunciation is the linguist, David Crystal. His book Pronouncing Shakespeare is very accessible.

And I agree there is no hard evidence for it being the first sonnet, though it is an oddity (juvenilia, octo-syllabics instead of Iambic pentameter).

The evidence for re-ordering the sonnets as we have them is as unconvincing as claiming this to be the first sonnet.

in the name of Will,
W. Sutton