It is a pleasure to be able to begin with performance. Shakespeare’s Sonnets do have a performance history, though its audience is scattered and it often goes unremarked; the new Arden edition prints pictures of Jean Lapotaire and Ben Kingsley in Shakespearean weeds for a Channel 4 reading of the Sonnets (1983), but says nothing about this enactment in the text. I had the good fortune in March 1999 to attend a programme entitled ‘Sonnet Variations’ at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where an ensemble cast of eight students and faculty presented readings of twenty-nine of the poems in a number of inventive configurations. Sonnet 87 (‘Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing’) was recited with much hesitation and repetition as to a mirror, rehearsal for a speech the lover was not sure he could bring himself to make. Sonnets 116 (‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds’) and 129 (‘Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame’) were recited in sync by two speakers, female and male respectively. Sonnet 94 (‘They that have power to hurt and will do none’) was split between two speakers, lines 1–8 given to a man and lines 9–14 to a woman. Sonnet 20 (‘A woman’s face, with nature’s own hand painted’) was acted out by two male undergraduates, one silent, stationary and grinning, the other moving happily around him to note each part being described; the effect was both deliberately silly and openly erotic -indeed, boldly so for an all-male school. An older cast member read Sonnet 138 (‘When my love swears that she is made of truth’) softly, with amusement and a slight brogue, as if he were telling it as a sly joke to a friend at a bar: not at all the way I reckon the poem, but wholly credible in the acting, and like many of the readings evidence of the rich dramatic leeway waiting to be explored in these poems. The performance caused enough of a stir to garner an invitation to the Edinburgh Festival; there is talk of further circulation.