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Shakespeare & Beyond

How to think like a sonnet, or, fourteen ways of looking around a room

A jeweled binding for Shakespeare's sonnets
A jeweled binding for Shakespeare's sonnets
A jeweled binding for a Shakespeare sonnet collection

The Sonnets of William Shakespeare. 1992 American jeweled binding by J. Franklin Mowery. The design of the covers and spine is based upon the fact that a sonnet has 14 lines. (Click the image to see more details in the Folger’s digital image collection.)

Why must I thus forever be confined?” Many of us share Hester Pulter’s frustration with being held at home, restrained from roaming beyond “a journey round my room.” We feel, in Macbeth’s claustrophobically condensed line, “cabined, cribbed, confined.”

Yet there remains an amazing way that intent study — concentration — momentarily removes the mind’s confines. People in far more restricted “Stone Walls,” including Nelson Mandela, have found solace in Shakespeare during trying times. Indeed, the conceit of the poem as a paradoxically freeing “prison” resonates from Petrarch to Terrance Hayes.


Very interesting ways of engaging with the sonnet form. I particularly love the translation tip (and the rewriting tip). Fascinating!! – Benjamin

Benjamin McEvoy — May 25, 2020