T103 | Shakespeare’s Sonnets: The Untold Tale


1:30 - 3:00 pm


1/18, 1/25, 2/1, 2/8, 2/15 & 2/22

Six Sessions 

This course is offered online via the easy-to-use Zoom program.

In this course, we’ll talk about how to understand Shakespeare’s way of speaking and, more importantly, how to follow the story he tells in The Sonnets. We’ll discover that what look like problems turn out to be intrigues. Instead of difficulties, we’ll find questions. What’s going on between the characters? What’s going to happen next? Inconsistencies begin to look like real-life relationships. As long as we are willing to ask questions that don’t have definite answers, the story keeps flowing. And the last two sonnets, that have puzzled most editors, are revealed to be the moral of the story. 

Week One, 1/18: Introduction; Sonnets 1-26. Read Sonnets 1-2 prior to class.

Week Two, 1/25: Sonnets 27-42. Review Sonnets 1-26 and read Sonnets 27 & 28 prior to class.

Week Three, 2/1: Sonnets 43-90. Review Sonnets 27-42 and read Sonnets 43 & 49 prior to class.

Week 4, 2/8: Sonnets 91-126. Review Sonnets 43-90 and read Sonnets 91-93 prior to class.

Week Five, 2/15: Sonnets 127-142. Review Sonnets 91-126 and read Sonnets 127 & 128 prior to class.

Week Six, 2/22: Sonnets 143-154; conclusion. Review Sonnets 127-142 and read Sonnets 143 & 144 prior to class.

Recommended Reading: Any complete edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. All are available in print or online, and many include explanations of difficult words and phrases with each sonnet.

Optional: Elizabethan Sonnets, ed. by Maurice Evans [Everyman Paperbacks, 1977]. This is a collection of Elizabethan sonnets by poets other than Shakespeare. It provides an interesting background and contrast to Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Good for sampling other authors. You may also find the text of some sonnets online by Sir Philip Sidney (Astrophi and Stella), Edmund Spenser (Amoretti), Sameul Daniel (To Delia) or others and read some of them.

Carl Atkins  holds an MD from Tufts Medical School. Now retired, he has edited Shakespeare’s Sonnets: With Three Hundred Years of Commentary [Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007], only one of four variorum editions of The Sonnets ever published. He has also published two articles on The Sonnets in the journal Studies in Philology and the newly released edition of The Sonnets, Shakespeare’s Sonnets Among His Private Friends.

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