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Ideas of Order

A Close Reading of Shakespeare's Sonnets

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


Shakespeare's sonnets are the greatest single work of lyric poetry in English, as passionate and daring as any love poems we may ever encounter, and yet, they are often misunderstood. Ideas of Order: A Close Reading of Shakespeare's Sonnets reveals an underlying structure within the 154 poems that illuminates the entire work, and provides a guide—for first-time readers as well as scholars—that inspires a new understanding of this complex masterpiece. Elizabethan scholar and former Harvard University president Neil L. Rudenstine makes a compelling case for the existence of a dramatic arc within the work through an expert interpretation of distinct groups of sonnets in relationship to one another. The sonnets show us a poet in turmoil whose love for a young man—who returns his affections—is utterly transformative, binding him in such an irresistible way that it survives a number of infidelities. And the poet and the young man are drawn in to a cycle of lust and betrayal by a "dark lady," a woman with the "power to make love groan."
Rudenstine's reading unveils the relationship between major groups of poems: the expressions of love, the transgressions, the longings, the jealousies, and the reconciliations. This critical analysis is accompanied by the text of all of Shakespeare's sonnets. Accessible and thought-provoking, Ideas of Order is an invaluable companion to this cornerstone of literature.

From Publishers Weekly

Sep 01, 2014 – Rudenstine, former president of Harvard, unpacks what he calls the "greatest single work of lyric poetry," Shakespeare's 154 love sonnets. The poems are quoted extensively throughout, as well as given in their entirety. Rudenstine astutely divides the sonnets into "clusters," so he can explicate separate themes like praise, betrayal, and love. Various rhetorical devices at work in the poems, including wordplay, irony, and hyperbole, also come under consideration. This study touches on multiple interpretations, but is most persuasive on Shakespeare's use of symbols, such as the sun, and imagery. Rudenstine's analysis is inspiring and thoughtful, especially when parsing the line, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" or tracing the sonnets' relationship to the author's plays. Curiously, the book only briefly mentions the homoerotic strain running through the sonnets, otherwise leaving the poet's intense feelings for a young man unexplored. Still, this is a worthwhile attempt to unravel the meanings of a challenging work.
Ideas of Order
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: Nov 18, 2014
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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