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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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Polish and Skill

Polish and Skill

Will’s Interest and Self-Interest in Sonnets 61–99

(p.243) Chapter 2 Polish and Skill
Petrarchism at Work

William J. Kennedy

Cornell University Press

This chapter argues that while the narrative order of Shakespeare’s sonnets 61–99 remains especially untidy, this group has two focal points, each projecting important economic concerns. For simplicity the chapter assumes that, in the 1609 arrangement of Sonnets, the addressee of the first 126 poems is the Young Man introduced in the procreation sonnets and that the speaker is called “Will” (as shown in sonnet 136). There’s enough continuity of tone and affect in these sonnets to suggest a narrative about a timorous poet, a Young Man, a Dark Lady, and their sordid relationship. What remains constant are the speaker’s alternating indifference and obsession, confidence and diffidence. What differs is the concern of sonnets 61–99 in showing what a poet can do with cultural polish and technical skill. This midsection of Sonnets attempts some of the most ambitious—though not always successful—poems in the sequence.

Keywords:   William Shakespeare, Will, Young Man, Dark Lady, cultural polish, technical skill, Shakespeare’s Sonnets

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