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Petrarchism at WorkContextual Economies in the Age of Shakespeare$
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William J. Kennedy

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501700019

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501700019.001.0001

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To Possess Is Not to Own

To Possess Is Not to Own

The Cost of the Dark Lady and the Young Man

(p.219) Chapter 1 To Possess Is Not to Own
Petrarchism at Work

William J. Kennedy

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers what a habit of compilation and revision might mean to Shakespeare in economic terms as he prepared his sonnets before selling them for publication. On all counts, the production and distribution of Sonnets took place in a “mobile and culturally pressured milieu,” where English as well as continental texts found a readership among overlapping social worlds inhabited by writers, scholars, lawyers, doctors, highly skilled artisans, courtiers, and state bureaucrats. Within this environment, though not entirely of it, Shakespeare in his Sonnets transacted the poetic form associated with Petrarch, claiming ownership of it with craftsmanship and skill. In this scenario, Shakespeare’s motivations for shaping and revising his sonnets diverge from, as well as coincide with, his commercial prospects.

Keywords:   William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Shakespeare’s commercial prospects, English texts, continental texts

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