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THREE SHAKESPERIAN SONNETS Text: William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Music: Gerald Manning
Sonnet 18 - Shall I compare thee to a summer�s day? Sonnet 34 � Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day, Sonnet 109 � O, never say that I was false of heart,
Controversy surrounded the publication of the Sonnets in 1609 and eminent critics such as Doctor Johnson who was born a hundred years after the first printing, passed them by in silence. Accusations were made of editorial rearrangement, and malicious tampering of the sequential order of composition, with the publisher Thomas Thorpe as the main protagonist and arch villain of the elaborate conspiracy. Whether Shakespeare, had in fact authorized the publication of these very private �love� poems is still a matter of conjecture and much debate among scholars.
The poems dwell on the great Renaissance themes of friendship, love and death: Wordsworth thought that �with this key/Shakespeare unlocked his heart�, giving impetus to the desire among many readers to find and attach a biographical key to the poems, which misses the quintessential point that the Sonnets are poems of search and not of statement, and Shakespeare transfigures this theme of immortalizing human love as he did in his plays. It is neither here nor there to elaborate on whom Shakespeare�s real-life friends or lovers may have been, for the lasting power and immortality of the Sonnets lies in the imaginative alchemy of �transfigured love�.
These Shakespearian Sonnets are intense poetic meditations on the Renaissance themes of beauty, love, friendship, and death, which Shakespeare transfigures into immortality. In �Shall I compare thee to a summer�s day?� he celebrates the aspect of physical beauty although he knows it will fade in time. �Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day�, reflects on integrity, although the inevitable outcome will be unreliability, but where human frailty and imperfection are most apparent there love abides, and in �O, never say that I was false of heart,� Shakespeare acknowledges his own divided, perhaps degraded, way of life, at the same time claiming immortality for the sonnets.