Many cntlcs believe that Shakespeare’s Sonnets was published without the sanction of the author, and if so he must have been surprised and infuriated to find verse published that he had carefully protected from public scrutiny. If this is the case, then Shakespare himself was also one of their earliest and severest critics. The second vogue in Elizabethan sonnets ended a decade or more before Shakespeare’s collection was published in 1609. At the time of its publication the 1609 Quarto seems to have been received largely in an ominous silence. I have already cited Francis Meres’s honey-tongued praise of ‘his sugred Sonnets’ in manuscript, but there are no existing contemporary discussions of them. Whether or not they were seen through the press by Shakespeare himself, they proved strikingly less popular in terms of printings than his two long narrative poems since both Venus and Adonis and Lucrece went through multiple.
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- Some Critical Responses to the Sonnets
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