Shakespeare’s sonnets have been subject to myriad creative and critical responses from the first instances of their partial publication in 1599 (two sonnets in The Passionate Pilgrime), in 1609 (the first edition of Shakespeares Sonnets, which included A Lover’s Complaint), and in 1640 (the first edition of John Benson’s Poems. VVritten By Wil. Shakespeare. Gent.). Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, editors and commentators felt comfortable manipulating the order of sonnets as printed in the 1609 quarto, often in order to arrive at a presumed authorial intention, or to demonstrate more clearly the ways in which the sonnets tell the story of Shakespeare’s life and times. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have seen a different, but related phenomenon: a set of creative reimaginings, adaptations, and appropriations that attempt not only to bring Shakespeare’s sonnets into new contexts, but also to respond to the sonnets while still remaining in their purview. This article explores these responses, especially instances in which poets, directors, dramatists, and film-makers seem to want to create something of their own but still remain faithful to Shakespeare in one way or another. My own interest is in exploring that dual desire, and it seems only fair, after exploring several versions of it, to offer one of my own.
Matthew Zarnowiecki is Chair of the Department of Languages and Literature at Touro College’s Lander College for Women and Lander College for Men, New York. His research interests are in early modern literary studies, including Shakespeare, print and manuscript history, and lyric poetry. His monograph, Fair Copies: Reproducing the English Lyric from Tottel to Shakespeare (University of Toronto Press, 2014) examines the production and reproduction of poetry in printed collections. He is the author of articles on the poetry of Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney, George Gascoigne, and Elizabethan print and verse miscellanies.