on 30 July 2009
This commentary on the Sonnets ignores the biographical and sociological questions that many readers bring to these poems, in favour of a close reading of each sonnet taken in turn. The meaning is worked out not in terms of a 'message' that could be restated in prose, but through a demonstration of how a host of small details contribute to the meaningful harmony of the whole. Other commentaries explain, line by line, ambiguous syntax or archaic vocabulary. The great merit of this commentary is that each and every detail discussed is related to the meaning of the sonnet as a whole. This book (which is beautifully printed, by the way) is a model of how short poems should be analysed. That the sonnets reward reading of this kind provides the real proof of their greatness.
on 14 July 2013
For a sharp, appreciative and humorous commentary of Vendler's The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets, coming from a different direction to those of the reviews below, try Don Paterson's Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets,pp xix-xxi.
on 4 April 2010
The Arden Shakespeare's Sonnets is a must for anyone who loves Shakespeare. This is a satisfying, chunky paperback with copious notes that make appreciation of each sonnet more than worth the effort. I thought I knew the sonnets well, but having decided to read them again in later life I find something new and delightful each time I pick up this book. I can imagine, if ever having to choose a few from my bookshelves in emergency (heaven forbid!) that this wonderful book - the essence of Shakespeare and complementary to the plays - would be one of the chief among them.