Shakespeare is universally acclaimed for his plays. His use of satire, wit, clever plots, and darker and tragic elements have attracted the readers. And I feel that this attraction for his plays has considerably shadowed his sonnets and as such, they have been comparatively less known. Because of this reason, I was utterly surprised to find the sonnets beautiful, lyrical, intelligent, and absorbing.
Before I began reading the sonnets, I thought them to be individual ones. Here too I was in for another surprise. They are not individual sonnets but a connected and continued 154 sonnets which tells a story of love, devotion, jealousy, lust, separation, and pining among other things. Thus as in his plays, Shakespeare tells us a story through his sonnets too. And I must say he tells the story with a passion and an earnestness.
The narrator is a male poet and the bulk of the sonnets are devoted to the poet’s love and devotion to a beautiful youth, his jealousies, and his pain at their separation. And the rest of the sonnets are devoted to his love, devotion, lust, and jealousy for his mistress. Interestingly, the sonnets address a poet’s love for a male and a female. The narrator, being a male and a poet, I did wonder whether Shakespeare was modeling the narrator on himself. I was really surprised by the bold venture of Shakespeare given that these were written in the late 16th century. I wonder whether no one thought of them scandalous at the time.
Through his sonnets, I saw a different side of Shakespeare, a one I haven’t seen through his plays. It was pleasing to know a passionate and emotional side existed in him in addition to his intelligence and creativity.