Lecture Series

Shakespeare. His Sonnets

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The sonnet, sublimely cultivated by Dante and later by Petrarch, arrived to England in the first half of the 16th century. Provided by Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Count of Surrey, it went through transformations that would result in what we know as Elizabethan sonnet or English sonnet. The resulting differential structure affected both the expression of the argument, and the feeling of the sonnet, which, with some exceptions, maintained the fundamental Petrarchan premise: a man loves and desires a beautiful woman consecrated to chastity, meaning virginity or "chastity of the bride". But it was not until the end of the 16th century, following the example of Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, that the series of sonnets where the poet expresses his love for a dame would become fashionable.

Shakespeare wrote his own series of sonnets, but from the hundred and fifty four that make up the series, most are not devoted to a woman, but deal or are aimed at beautiful young man, in opposition to the Petrarchan current. Also, his sonnets are different in other aspects, like the very explicit way in which they express desire. Regarding the rest, the sonnets do not present neither the unity nor the uniformity we can observe in Sidney and others: Shakespeare addressed in his sonnets different topics that are expressed with a wide variety of tones and emotions. Some are reflexions not related to the daily life, but most of them seem to derivate from an event of the real world, and plenty of the details suggest a personal basis. Because of this, his sonnets are for some an autobiographical creation. Others, alternatively, asume it is a literary fiction reflecting the values and conventions of his time. Also, many believe that this is the expression of a singular voice suggesting a close presence and inviting to guess the identity. Maybe due to this, these sonnets still speak to us along the centuries and have found an extraordinary echo in our days full of pain and personal and social miseries.

All these aspects will be examined in the first conference. In the second, a more detailed presentation of a selection of sonnets will be done. This selection will be declaimed in Spanish by the actors Tristán Ulloa and Elvira Mínguez.