ABSTRACT

In "A Shakespeare Sonnet Group" (PMLA, 75, 1960) I proposed a new effort to answer some old questions raised by Thorpe's quarto of 1609. The quarto sonnet order is often unsatisfactory, but so have been most attempts to improve it. I tried to meet the difficulty with a standard of multiple evidence. First considered were sonnets 63-8, all of which are addressed to Shakespeare's friend in the third person and distinguished further by a uniform epithet, "my love." Surprisingly, five remaining sonnets of third-person address (a very limited category) also contain the epithet: 19, 21, 100, 101, 105. When the eleven sonnets with this double hallmark are read together they show added signs of linkage: a close unity of theme, a constant echo of image and phrase, and a conventional structure—beginning, middle, and end. Three additional factors complete the picture. Sonnets 63-8, already joined in Q, show that Shakespeare 'intended' a poem of the kind proposed; the five remaining sonnets, separated in Q, are all in questionable position; and removal of 100-101 from the 0 order leaves 97-9> 1 102-4 with a new sequential unity.