martes, 29 de marzo de 2016

Six Shakespeare’s Sonnets

William Shakespeare is one of the greatest authors of humankind. In fact, his poems and plays are considered to be unequalled, since he managed to look into the human soul in order to reveal all the passions that are hidden inside us, good and bad. And most importantly, he did so with the mastery of a literary genius. William Shakespeare is a widely admired playwright, but he was mainly a poet in all his writings. In his time, poetry and drama were so linked together that all Shakespeare's plays are full of poetry, and he has always been considered the best poet in the English language. He wrote some books of poetry, but his Sonnets are celebrated as his finest poems.

1. Read and listen to Shakespeare's sonnets

Shakespeare's Sonnets are a song to love with all its greatness and misery, and in general to human feelings and to nature. Nobody is left indifferent after reading these famous poems. There are 145 sonnets. The first 126 poems are addressed to a man, and the rest (except for the last two poems) are addressed to the so called 'Dark Lady'. To learn more about the sonnets, find information in the links below. If you want to read and listen to all the sonnets, here is a video from YouTube:

With this activity, we want to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. We present six of his most representative sonnets, recited in English and translated into Spanish, which you can find on Mediateca de EducaMadrid and Biblioteca virtual Miguel de Cervantes. Click on the links below to read the poems, and enjoy their beauty.

2. Language changes

The English language has evolved quickly over the last centuries, and it is difficult for English speakers to understand Shakespeare's works well. However, the English of his time is not very different from the English spoken today, although it is true that Shakespeare played with words and created a poetical language which enriched the English language. For the purpose of this activity, you have to take into account some language changes:
  • Pronouns such as thou (subject pronoun you; pronounced /ðaʊ/); thee (object pronoun you; pronounced /ðiː/) and thyself (reflexive pronoun yourself). Examples: 'Thou steal' ('You steal'); "I think on thee' ('I think of you').
  • Possessive adjectives and pronouns such as thy and thine (your and yours; pronounced /ðaɪ/ and /ðaɪn/). Examples: 'Thy sweet love' ('Your sweet love'); 'All mine was thine' ('All mine was yours').
  • Verb forms in such verbs as have or be. Example: 'What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?' ('have and 'had'); 'Where art thou?' ('Where are you?').
  • Past or participles such as 'possess'd' or 'remember'd' with the elided 'e'.
  • Some verb endings such as 'usest' ('use'), 'refusest' ('refuse').
  • The old use of 'shall' as the future auxiliary 'will'.

3. Play with the sonnets by ordering their lines

This is a very simple activity, and I hope you will enjoy yourself trying to order all the sonnets lines. In this way you will be able to remember some of the best Shakespeare's lines and to approach the beauty of his poetry. You can help yourself by listening to the sonnets recitations. And, who knows, in the end you may be able to write some original sonnets yourself! To do this activity, read the sonnets again and then, without looking at them, order the lines by clicking the number on the left column and then the line on the right column.

4. Shakespeare and Love

This activity wouldn't be complete without this video created by Ana Almarza with her students. For Shakespeare, love is the most important feature of human life.

5. Two more activities

Now that you have become familiar with Shakespeare's sonnets, you might want to carry out these two activities taken from some of the websites referenced below:
  1. Study Questions from SparkNotes, and Essay Questions from Clifsnotes. These are questions related to the sonnets, which can help you understand the poems and express your views.
  2. How to Write a Sonnet is a very interesting activity that can help you write a sonnet.

6. Opinions about Shakespeare's sonnets

As you can imagine, a lot of people in all times have studied and given their opinions about these sonnets. Let's have a look at some good web sites:
  1. "Throughout his sonnets, Shakespeare clearly implies that love hurts. Yet despite the emotional and physical pain, like the speaker, we continue falling in love. Shakespeare shows that falling in love is an inescapable aspect of the human condition—indeed, expressing love is part of what makes us human." (SparkNotes.)
  2. "The question remains whether the poet is expressing Shakespeare's personal feelings. Since we know next to nothing about Shakespeare's personal life, we have little reason or right not to read the collected sonnets as a work of fiction, just as we would read his plays or long poems." (Shakespeare online.) 
  3. "While contemporary criticism remains interested in the question of whether or not the sonnets are autobiographical, the sonnets, taken either wholly or individually, are first and foremost a work of literature, to be read and discussed both for their poetic quality and their narrative tale. Their appeal rests not so much in the fact that they may shed some light on Shakespeare's life, nor even that they were written by him; rather, their greatness lies in the richness and the range of subjects found in them." (Cliffsnotes.)
  4. "Love in Shakespeare’s sonnets does not have a single definition, but rather, an intangible collection of characteristics that, together, make up a powerful force that defeats all obstacles. Taking just three of the sonnets  – 116, 130, and 147 – love is depicted as an overwhelming force that triumphs over time, the physical world, and reason, respectively. In sonnet 116, love is given an identity as an immortal force, which overcomes age, death, and time itself.  Love is depicted as an invincible force that defies time as well as time’s effects on beauty and youth, changes such as wrinkles and old age." (No Sweat Shakespeare.)

7. Some reference websites

  1. Shakespeare's sonnets. All the sonnets with comments and notes.
  2. Shakespeare online. An analysis of his sonnets.
  3. Shakespeare's sonnets on Sparknotes. A guide to the sonnets.
  4. About Shakespeare's Sonnets. An analysis of his sonnets on Cliffsnotes.
  5. Shakespeare's sonnets on YouTube.
  6. Biblioteca virtual Miguel de Cervantes. Sonnets translations. 
  7. Shakespeare’s sonnets along with a modern English interpretation.

4 comentarios:

  1. Respuestas
    1. Thanks, Ana. Your video is beautiful too. Shakespeare's sonnets "dwell in lovers' eyes".

  2. Hi Alejandro. Wonderful post, packed with great ideas. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks, Lola. There are great ideas, but also great feelings and passions in Shakespeare's works.