The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets

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Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999 - Literary Criticism - 672 pages
14 Reviews

Helen Vendler, widely regarded as our most accomplished interpreter of poetry, here serves as an incomparable guide to some of the best-loved poems in the English language.

In detailed commentaries on Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, Vendler reveals previously unperceived imaginative and stylistic features of the poems, pointing out not only new levels of import in particular lines, but also the ways in which the four parts of each sonnet work together to enact emotion and create dynamic effect. The commentaries--presented alongside the original and modernized texts--offer fresh perspectives on the individual poems, and, taken together, provide a full picture of Shakespeare's techniques as a working poet. With the help of Vendler's acute eye, we gain an appreciation of "Shakespeare's elated variety of invention, his ironic capacity, his astonishing refinement of technique, and, above all, the reach of his skeptical imaginative intent."

Vendler's understanding of the sonnets informs her readings on an accompanying compact disk, which is bound with the book. This recorded presentation of a selection of the poems, in giving aural form to Shakespeare's words, heightens our awareness of voice in lyric, and adds the dimension of sound to poems too often registered merely as written words.

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Review: The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets

User Review  - Mark Olival-Bartley - Goodreads

For her percipient analyses of embedded rhymes alone, Helen Vendler's book is worth the price alone. Highly recommended. Read full review

Review: The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets

User Review  - Runa - Goodreads

Superb practical criticism. I also can't believe nobody in the past 400 years noticed that couplet tie trick before her - amazing. Read full review



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About the author (1999)

Helen Vendler is A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University.

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