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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 XI, Runes 141-154: 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 141
Rune 142
Rune 143
Rune 144
Rune 145
Rune 146
Rune 147
Rune 148
Rune 149
Rune 150
Rune 151
Rune 152
Rune 153
Rune 154

 
         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 XI (Sonnets 141-154): My Mystery-Sighs

          This the second of the Perverse Mistress sets pairs with Set X to comprise a formal “couplet” close to Will’s grand design, Q’s Megasonnet; texts in Set XI (at the far right in that imaginative construct) effectively add “‘unstressed’ syllables” across the board, packing the structure full.

           Readers have long recognized that the last 28 sonnets in Q are somehow of a different order from the rest. (Elsewhere on this site are my own speculations about the origin and dating of the two final sets and about how they fit into the overall scheme.) As a further terminal add-on to the predominant Dark Lady materials in Sets X-XI, the last two overt sonnets in the last set function visually on the spread as a “couplet” close, exhibiting a conventional shift of subject matter in textual units 13-14, and concurrently rounding off the whole of Q with a bit of allusive formality.

           In fact, the conventionally mythological materials about Cupid and Diana in Sonnets 153-154, which have been critically lamented as a lapse, exert a strong substantive influence on the 14 runes that emerge in Set XI, cutting across all the runic texts in strategic final positions. The magic of contextual significations—and especially of pre-positioned pronouns pointing downward to elements in the runic couplets—allows many thematic variations in Set XI, not all of them with a Cupid/Diana tinge. Runes 141 and 142, as examples, seem momentarily to erase the concept that Will’s “mistress” automatically means his “mysteries,” the Q texts, but do not shift firmly into mythological gear either.

           Overall, the “different” subject matter in Sonnets 153-154 has the practical effect on the set of generating variety, especially in what “she” can mean in the runes. In Rune 141, e.g., the “careful housewife” conceit dominates—perhaps a kenning for Will himself, running back and forth between Sonnets and Runes, as if between husband and lover. Still, the notion that “she” means “mistress/mysteries” is pervasive enough throughout Sets X-XI to serve as an assumed hypothesis for any reader unless contextual evidence in a given rune points in some other direction. The Cupid/Diana stuff, for one thing, triggers a good bit about “brands” as quills.

           Like the “couplet” pair 153-154, Sonnet 145—with its perversely tetrameter lines—has across-the-board effects in Set XI, if only to add one shortened line to every rune. Rune 142 wittily butts a “stuttering” six-stressed line (Sonnet 146.2) up against one of these tetrameter lines to generate an ironic “regularity” in the linked lines, showing one of hundreds of instances where authorized “error” proves playfully functional. In this particular case, given the reiterated content “my sinful earth” (Sonnet 146.1-2, punning “err-theme”), one reads the “error” as a mea culpa in the medieval tradition—a reminder that only God, and certainly not Will, creates perfection.

           Sonnet 144 here has gone far toward defining received opinions about the “love triangle” in Shakespeare’s sonnets—poet, male friend, perverse mistress. Reading the text in the light of what we now know about the suppressed runes allows other ways to view the implicit dramatic situation that frames the Q texts.

           As usual, Will’s own self-imposed predicament seems to be the dominant subject of the set, if indeed it has one. Notable in the runes of this set are the “numbers” reference (to 28) in Rune 146.12 and the re-assertion in Rune 151 of the theme of immortality through verse.       
   

             

Click on a link below to see the text in paste-up, edited, and paraphrased forms, with sample puns and acrostic wit.
Rune 141
Rune 142
Rune 143
Rune 144
Rune 145
Rune 146
Rune 147
Rune 148
Rune 149
Rune 150
Rune 151
Rune 152
Rune 153
Rune 154
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