Critiquing the Critique – 1

This is just an introduction to my point-by-point answer to “A Critique of the ‘Monument theory'” by Lynne Kositsky and Roger Stritmatter, PhD. in the Fall 2004 issue of Shakespeare Matters, the newsletter of the Shakespeare Fellowship, then edited by William Boyle.   At the time my 900-page edition of the Sonnets entitled THE MONUMENT has not been released and was set to appear in April 2005.

Let me start with the very first paragraph, which sets the theme and tone of the piece:

“Hank Whittemore’s summer 2004 Shakespeare Matters article, ‘Authorize Thy Trespass With C0mpare,’ promises to supply a simple, comprehensive solution to the enigma of the sonnets:  ‘Reading the sonnets becomes as clear and uncomplicated as reading a signed, dated letter to a known addressee about the events of the day,’ writes editor Bill Boyle in his accompanying essay.  Whittemore’s solution, believes Boyle, ‘is absolutely correct’ and makes ‘crystal clear what was once mysterious and opaque.’  Like many Shakespearean students, we would love to receive the definitive enlightenment promised by these bold words.  Regrettably, however, the Whittemore solution to the sonnets fails to live up to Boyle’s advance publicity.”

Well, there you have it, the opening shot across my bow.  It’s a very good example of a sophisticated and funny put-down.   They are merely “students” in this Shakespearean world and they would “love to receive the definitive wisdom promised by these bold words.”  Well, I am not so sure.  I don’t know how much they would really love the definitive wisdom, but let us believe them for now, since I do plan to give them a fresh helping of it.

(Lynne has inserted a comment after the previous post, on Sonnet 42, and I intend to respond to that one and others.   I don’t have the comment in front of me right now, but one point she makes is that a reader cannot take up a given sonnet, number 42 in particular, and assert that it refers to this or that person or place or situation when, in fact, no such identifications exist.

(Strictly speaking I agree.  For example, many or most scholars agree that Sonnet 107 refers to the great events in the spring of 1603; that the younger man who had been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” is the Earl of Southampton; that “the mortal Moon” is Queen Elizabeth, known as Diana, goddess of the Moon, who has recently died; that the phrase “crown themselves assured” refers to the crowning of Jame I; and that “peace proclaims Olives of endless age” refers to the peaceful succession, a transfer of power without civil war, and perhaps to the King’s plans to make peace with Spain.

(And none of the individual names — Southampton, Elizabeth, James, much less the author who claims victory over his own death — are specified.  So without getting into this comment any more right now, I’d just cite the widespread view of Sonnet 107 as an example of what I believe can be applied to every single other sonnet.)

Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on August 6, 2009 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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