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The New York Public Library Celebrates Shakespeare: The End of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

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April 11, 2011

Program Locations:

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium

Most readers recognize that Shakespeare’s sonnets begin with a set of poems persuading a young man to cheat death by reproducing.  But how do they end?  Do they end once, with sonnet 154?  Or twice, once for the young man and once for the dark lady?  What about the end of A Lover’s Complaint, which was printed in the first edition of the sonnets?  By the early seventeenth century, Shakespeare’s poetry was far more miscellaneous in nature than Venus and Adonis or The Rape of Lucrece, and this miscellaneity means we should read the sonnets very differently.  Most importantly, we should not look for beginnings, middles and ends at all.  This, it turns out, is an important principle in the sonnets themselves.

A Writer in Residence in the Library's Wertheim Study, Matthew Zarnowiecki is Assistant Professor at Auburn University, and received his PhD from Columbia University.  He has published articles on early modern English poetry in manuscript and print, and his book manuscript is titled Fair Copies: Reproducing the English Lyric from Tottel to Shakespeare.

Following the lecture, Dana Ivey, star of stage and screen, will read a selection of the Sonnets.  Twenty 20 members of the audience (drawn by lot) are then invited to view the Shakespearean holdings in the Library's Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, which includes the First Folio.

To see the other lectures in this Series, click here.

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