Dead Poets Society 7: Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Don Paterson and Emma Smith – by Alice Drury

In the high-ceilinged and elegant Burgage Hall, the 400 year old sonnets of William Shakespeare were given prominence to by Emma Smith (author and Professor at Oxford University) and Don Paterson (poet and translator), immersing the people of Ledbury Poetry Festival in an enrapturing study of “a key with which Shakespeare opens his heart” (Smith). The sonnets give “a different sense of what poetry can do” while revealing to us the “gossip [that] was shadowing the form” (Smith). As Shakespeare “liberated himself”, as claimed by Paterson, and was “free to address his true subject”, he is shown as “a complex individual”. Paterson and Smith opened up possible debates on whether “the poem is less about the object of desire than desire itself” (Paterson), and speculation about some sonnets that appear “from a man addressed to a man” (Smith). Through the enthralling perusal of Shakespeare’s sonnets, we are once again reminded of a talent “no one else can reach” (Paterson) and his remarkable literary skill that “set the bar for pure mastery”.

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