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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 VIII, Runes 99-112: 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 99
Rune 100
Rune 101
Rune 102
Rune 103
Rune 104
Rune 105
Rune 106
Rune 107
Rune 108
Rune 109
Rune 110
Rune 111
Rune 112

 
         Available here are Runes 99-112, in A & B variants, each text 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. Below, in the background discussion, I try to explain the aberrations in Set VIII that making it unique in the Q scheme. Briefly, these aberrations grow out of the fact that Sonnet 99 has 15 lines, not the usual 14.


           Rune 99A emerges when you read “across” the set spread shown below so that you link up the sequence of 14 first lines. The other A variants of the runes in the set emerge similarly: For example, Rune 100A is the sequence of second lines in the 14 visible sonnets shown below, Rune 101A is the sequence of third lines, and so on through Rune 112A. (To generate the B variants, just play the game that line 1 of visible Sonnet 99 does not exist; that way you get to use the aberrrational 15th line of Sonnet 99 as if it were line 14 of the sonnet.)

           Clicking on a rune number in one of the boxes above (Runes 99-112) 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 VIII (Sonnets 99-112): Three Themes in One

            Numerologically important (in much the same way the year 1999 is) and emphatically positioned (like an emphatic larger letter signaling a new text), Sonnet 99 startles “like toothy lark at break of day arising” because it has 15 lines, not 14. Unlike other playful quirks in the formal mechanics of Q—odd metrical lengths, irregular rhyme schemes, or airy parenthetical lines—the “extra line” in Sonnet 99 is a serious aberration in Q’s mathematical architecture, one that stops reconstruction of the Runes cold until a player can “solve” the “problem” it generates.

            As any peer might have done in Will’s own day, I myself came upon this quirky challenge after I was well into the game. (Who first goes through a book and counts lines?) At that point the neat structural scheme I’d detected in Q seemed to crumple, flawed by one pesky extra line. What could be “done” with it? If one line should be discounted in the recomposition process, which one was “extra”? The rhyme scheme of 99 (ababa…) and the preface-like “feel” of Sonnet 99.1 both made the first line seem extraneous, but a more natural inclination was to lop off the extra line at the bottom—given our fondness for ABC order, our urge to “even the tops” of texts on the page, and our tendency to read “down” and not skip anything.

             As usual in Q’s forking-paths game, trial and error provided a way to proceed, and one option does not block the other: The “extra” authorized line is fully functional, a teasing challenge that curbs peer cockiness, shows oneupmanship, complicates the wit and “increase” of the game, and even punctuates the structure of Q with a showy climax in Set VIII to precede Q’s denouement in Sets IX-XI. In an already bifurcated cycle where Sonnets overlay Runes and vice versa, the 15-line text bedazzles by triggering a subsidiary division, two whole subsets of texts—A and B variants—in the set it headlines. (Hence the set title, Will’s own phrase.) Though the A and B sets are almost alike, the aegis-like position of the switchable line tends to send any given text off on its own tangent—so tenuous are the associative nuances in any runic linestring. (Imagine two identical paragraphs of obtuse prose with differently worded topic sentences.)

             Practically, a recompositor must in two separate stages ignore both Sonnet 99.1 and Sonnet 99.15. Ignoring line 15, the almost automatic choice, allows the subset of A texts to emerge. Ignoring line 1, thus letting the second line of Sonnet 99 function in the recomposition process as its first, produces the B texts. One can visualize this two-step process by imagining that in the first case the tops of Sonnets 99 and 100 are level on the Q leaf—leaving 99.15 dangling at the bottom without any succession of siblings; by shifting the text of Sonnet 99 up one line to create new horizontal alignments, each one of the lines 2-14 in Sonnet 99 gains a new string of successive siblings, with line 99.1 orphaned and (for the duration) non-functional at the top.

             Cultivated puns, especially in Sonnet 99.1 and 99.15, originally helped reveal such a solution to the Runemaster’s witty challenge. These puns include the play “The ‘forward violate’ [i.e., ‘disruptive preface’] thus did “[No.] IC [i.e., Roman numeral 99] hide” (99.1) and the lament about “looking for more ‘flowers’ [cf. lines of flowing ink]” and “seeing none” there (in 99.15). The latter is exactly what one senses upon reaching line 15 and not observing any righthand companions for it. Other puns elsewhere in the set reinforced my deductions—e.g., “that thou fore-jettest so long” (Sonnet 100.1); “three themes in one” (Sonnet 105.12); the pun on “A/Bism” (Sonnet 112.9); and the acrostic wit about A/B in Rune 110A. The meanings that emerge in the dual sets of recompositions are, of course, the real proof; the punning details are merely breadcrumbs dropped in the night forest for disoriented players to try to follow.

             Typically in Q, where all dualities are coeval, neither set of variants takes precedence, despite our inclination to read the A variants as primary, the B’s as afterthoughts. Admittedly, the emphatic first-line capitals in Q do seem to favor the A-form recomposition of Rune 99—which begins with glaring caps—over its B twin, which opens unemphatically. Nothing substantive, however, indicates that A-texts are better than B’s; in some cases, the quality of the latter seems superior.

             In a small dilemma that mirrors all the larger ones, a first editor of the Runes faces choices about what to keep, value, and discount in Q’s myriad possibilities. Two perfectly parallel treatments of A’s and B’s generate repetition, while postscript treatment of the B texts might closet and demean them forever. My compromise in the original ms. version of this project was to give the B texts an abbreviated presentation that still respected their viability. I considered each edited rune in turn and focused on what was different in it from its A counterpart. Obfuscated by this approach were puns in the opening line (as it merges with the second) and acrostic wit in the B codelines, which vary from the A forms by one letter.

            In the version of the project posted here, I give the B variants fuller treatment as individually discrete texts but still try to avoid redundancy by merging the commentary. The A and B texts are almost alike, but the fact that the first line is the one that differs has a tendency to send the A and B forms of a given rune off in different directions.

            In Set VIII, 11 of the 28 variants open either with initial A’s or initial B’s. Both the 108 texts start with A. This witty, minimally paradoxical incidence highlights the pattern in the 109 texts: 109A starts with A, and 109B starts with B; the 110 texts exactly reverse this pattern, heightening it as a conscious authorized detail. In other words, these minimal manipulations seem to function as clues to a reader/player seeking to confirm the “right path” toward cracking the nutty formal aberration of Set VIII. (See also 104B, 105A, 107B, 111A, and 112B, where “A/B” wit seems self-conscious in the opening lines.)

            Read for “serious” meaning, Set VIII persists with familiar topics: The poet’s role and flaws, his isolation from and on-going dedication to the muse, the difficulty of finding new conceits, the friend’s mixed nature, Will’s vacillation between optimism and melancholy. Motives in the Runes of the set, triggered by some individually cohesive topics in Sonnets 99-112, include flowers (cf. Sonnet 99), figures from romance (cf. Sonnet 106), and the unspecified personal scandal that is the topic in the set’s “couplet” texts, Sonnets 111-112—and, e.g., in Rune 100. Much of the set feels teasingly personal in ways that do not seem directly to involve the Stratford family. Perhaps Southampton’s taint after the Essex rebellion—or some intense or misunderstood relationship between Will and Southy—is in the background. The notions of the muse’s absence and of the passage of three years (cf., e.g., Sonnet 104) are provocative but in themselves inconclusive. Will’s complaints about repetition (e.g. Sonnets 102-103) and “wasting time” (Sonnet 106) and such epithets as “wild music” (Sonnet 102.11), “profound abysm” (Sonnet 112.9), inventive change (cf. Sonnet 105.11), and jam-packed verses (cf. Sonnet 103.13) all gain new meaning with our expanded understanding of the 3-D quality of the Q enterprise.

             The phrase “another whited if-pair” (Sonnet 99.9) may point to ghostly, hypothetical pairs who occur in Q’s motific texture and wit: e.g., Sonnets/Runes, Hamnet/Judith, Adam/Eve, Tristan/Isolde, Will/Southy, Will/Ann, Sue/John Hall, granddaughter Bess/“th’ heir,” and so on.

             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 99
Rune 100
Rune 101
Rune 102
Rune 103
Rune 104
Rune 105
Rune 106
Rune 107
Rune 108
Rune 109
Rune 110
Rune 111
Rune 112
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