A Shakespearean Sonnet
I’m teaching my class all about the sonnet tomorrow, and so I’ve been pouring over my poetry anthologies, reveling in the imaginative renderings of this much loved form. Of course, one of the main poets that we associate with the sonnet is Shakespeare, and we now use the term Shakespearean Sonnet to describe the type of sonnet he wrote. However, I think one of my favourite Shakespearean sonnets was not actually written by Shakespeare himself. It is, in fact, written by Carol Ann Duffy, and it’s named after William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway.
“Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed…”
(from Shakespeare’s will)
The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love –
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.
By Carol Ann Duffy
This poem is from a fantastic collection of poems by Carol Ann Duffy called The World and His Wife in which each poem is written from the perspective of the wife of a famous, often historical figure. I highly recommend it as each poem is such a gem. In this poem, in particular, I love that she chose to write Shakespeare’s wife’s narrative in the form of the sonnet: the verse form which was clearly so close to his heart.
What’s your favourite sonnet? What do you love about this very special verse form?
UPDATE: I’ve had a request to share all the favourite sonnets I gathered through Twitter and this post, so, ever obliging, here they are:
Thanks go to @lindiop, @dmcordell, @captainstardust and @pfanderson from Twitter, as well as to the following commenters who contributed to this list: Mrs Chilli, Joanna Young, Dale, Autumn Song and Ellen Wilson.