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Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets: A Restoration of the Runes
by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English
The University of Tennessee at Martin

Set VI, Runes 71-84: Texts and Comments
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved        

             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 71
Rune 72
Rune 73
Rune 74
Rune 75
Rune 76
Rune 77
Rune 78
Rune 79
Rune 80
Rune 81
Rune 82
Rune 83
Rune 84

 
         Available here are Runes 71-84, each synoptically arranged in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms,
with my editorial comments and with editorial samples of puns in the lines and of gamy potential meanings that lie hidden in the emphatic acrostic codelines.

           Rune 71 emerges when you read “across” the set spread shown below so that you link up the sequence of 14 first lines. The other runes in the set emerge similarly: For example, Rune 72 is the sequence of second lines in the 14 visible sonnets shown below, Rune 73 is the sequence of third lines, and so on through Rune 84.

           Clicking on a rune number in one of the boxes above (Runes 71-84) will allow you to read and study an individual text carefully, comparing its edited form to the actual details of the Quarto lines and to my editorial paraphrase. All editorial materials represent carefully considered but necessarily incomplete approaches to the riddlic, gamelike texts hidden in Q.


Notes on Set VI (Sonnets 71-84): When We Are Dead

          Full of the usual personal ambiguities and of indefinite insinuations of “guilt” and of “rival poets,” the sonnets and runes in this half-way set anticipate the deaths of Will and his muse and focus on the poems’ capacities to memorialize the friend (and to blur the poet into obscurity). Though the persona’s stresses and anxieties do not dominate the materials here, the personal complaint “That time of year thou may’st in me behold” in Sonnet 73 has proven to be the most appreciated sonnet in the set. One appealing runic companion is Rune 82, with its strongly affirmative epithet “He of tall building and of goodly pride”; another is Rune 75, on mutability, showing Will working at some hour 400 years ago, an instant much like the one we now “enjoy.”

          While Sonnet 71 envisions Will dying first and instructs the friend on how to react, Sonnet 81 equivocates—in effect saying, “Either I’ll go first, or you will…”—but rests in the assurance that the friend’s “name from hence immortal life shall have” because Will’s verses will preserve it. One of the great ironies in Q is that we do remember the friend, but always as a nameless figure.

          A recurring thread in the set is the notion that the poet’s skill is not up to its job; a number of the runes might, in fact, be called apologies. Now that we know of its complexity, we understand how the nature of the project made Will’s outcomes inevitably flawed. We also understand the implication of “both your poets” (Rune 84.13)—Will Shakespeare as author of Sonnets and of Runes—and of the term “two newfound methods and two compounds strange” (Rune 74.6). Further, we can see how far off the mark Will’s tongue-in-cheek characterization of himself falls when he speaks of a “true-telling friend” who is recording the friend’s attributes “in true, plain words” (Rune 82.12). Ideas of fecundity and of counterparts here now gain new meaning. The themes of mutability and of permanence through art and the poet’s search for new figures and his interest in the long-range outcome of his texts—these ideas carry over from earlier sets.

          The opening of Sonnet 82, “I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,” seems puzzling in its obvious context as an address to whatever “muse” Will is supposed to be talking to but makes some sense as a coy, numerologically placed complaint about the poet’s own marriage: Will and Anne married in 1582, and the line is one of many clues that Anne in some sense may be (in the poet’s mind) one version of his Perverse Mistress. (The line puns, “I grant Tower in ode…,” “I guarantee whore-tenet merry, Ed. Tommy…,” “I grant thou wert not married, Tommy, m’ wife [Q Mufe],” and so on.) Rune 82 manages in its early lines (see puns, 82.1-2) to encode a coy reference to F. (de) Sandell(s), a Shottery farmer who was a friend of Anne Hathaway’s father and who posted bond on the occasion of Anne and Will’s marriage.

           Sonnet 77, the halfway point in Will’s projected cycle, focuses appropriately on “wasting precious minutes”; its two middle lines read, “Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know / Time’s thievish progress to eternity.” Rune 77 (see comments) uses one of these two lines in its mid-section to comment on the pictographic connection between 77 and “half-added feathers” that in one sense mean “half-completed” products of a quill pen. (Each “7” looks like an angel’s wing, though the two may be “half-added” because both are stuck awkwardly on the same side.) Perhaps, despite the subtextual plethora of Anne-berating wit in Q, the opening of Rune 77 should be read as conciliatory: “That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, / Anne, hang more praise upon deceased I, / Which by and by black night doth take away.”

           The acrostic arrangement of Set VI lines out NOT B across the top, suggesting both Nota Bene and the “…not to be” half of his own best-known saw—one that he seems to joke about over and over in the subtext (cf. index). The vertical alignments SW (cf. Sue), TT (i.e., Thomas Thorpe), and BSI (cf. “Bessie,” Elizabeth [Hall]) on the set leaf—which get lost in the acrostic of Rune 1—encode the names of important subjects and/or auditors; in a pinch, the initial emphatic N will even do for “Anne.” Forms of “Southy” (e.g., SWOWOITT, SVVT) also align themselves.

           The set-leaf vertical acrostic codeline—N S WOVVOIT TOW B SI—suggests “Ensue, ode too busy,” “An ass, would Toby sigh,” “Anne, Sue vowed Toby’s I,” “…would ‘To be’ say,” “…vowed to be assy,” “Anne, Sue, ought to be busy,” and “In Swede [an epithet for Thorpe], Toby is aye.” The down/up reverse of this code yields, e.g., “In Swede, Toby’s ‘I’ is bawdy, teasing,” “…is body teasing.” The simplest diagonal code—N SOWVVT OT B IO SW I—suggests “In Swede, oat beaten, Sue eye [10=ten],” “Anne sought oat, hating [B=8] Sue aye,” and the like.

           Numeric totals of all the emphatic letters (treated as numbers) may yield 70, the last rune composed before the set starts: I+V+0+7+8+5+VV+7+5+VV+0+0+1+1+VV = 70. This construction requires us to read the opening “N” as I+V (or 6, the set number), not IV = 4.
   

             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 71
Rune 72
Rune 73
Rune 74
Rune 75
Rune 76
Rune 77
Rune 78
Rune 79
Rune 80
Rune 81
Rune 82
Rune 83
Rune 84
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