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Venus and Adonis - Lucrece - The Passionate Pilgrim - ‘Let the bird of loudest lay’ - The Sonnets - A Lover’s Complaint
Shakespeare’s poetic command of the English language is unparalleled. His Sonnets, with their intensely personal meditations on love, beauty and time, reveal a private aspect of his genius, giving us the greatest possible insight into Shakespeare the man, as well as the poet. His earlier narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, showcase his unique gift for drama and characterisation.
This is poetry for all time, to be read and reread. In this Folio Society limited edition, Shakespeare’s poetical works are gathered together in a single volume that does full justice to their eternal beauty. All are included: the narrative poems, the complete Sonnets, A Lover’s Complaint and the allegory ‘Let the bird of loudest lay’. Shakespeare intended that his poetry should last forever: this edition is a fitting tribute to that wish.
Shakespeare’s Sonnets form the cornerstone of his lyric genius. They contain some of the most celebrated lines in the canon: ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’, ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds’, ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’. Their themes are universal – the trials of love, the transience of human beauty and the eternity of art. Yet Shakespeare broke with sonnet convention by combining these themes with more everyday concerns such as loneliness, professional disappointment and the beauty of the seasons, and with homely images such as a distracted housewife or a nervous actor. The result is that the Sonnets present a portrait of the human condition, seen through the prism of the poet’s emotions.
‘And then thou love’st me – for my name is “Will”.’
The autobiographical clues within the Sonnets have tantalised readers for centuries. The poet addresses two characters throughout – the ‘fair youth’ and the ‘mistress’ or ‘dark lady’ – whose identities still remain unknown. The ‘onlie begetter’ of the Sonnets’ dedication, Mr W. H., is another mystery. Whatever the historical facts, the personal nature of the Sonnets is undeniable. ‘And then thou love’st me – for my name is “Will”.’ ‘So will I pray that thou may’st have thy Will.’ The poet’s very name is used to express the fears and hopes of love, leading Wordsworth to declare that, ‘With this key, /Shakespeare unlocked his heart.’
This edition is exceptional in presenting the Sonnets alongside Shakespeare’s narrative poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594) and other verse. Venus and Adonis was the first work Shakespeare ever published under his name, and was so popular that it was joked that young men slept with it under their pillows. The story of Venus and her doomed love for the beautiful young Adonis is filled with rich, sensual imagery and humour, reminiscent of comedies like Much Ado About Nothing. In Lucrece, Shakespeare created an eloquent heroine, full of dignity and pathos. Many of the themes explored in Shakespeare’s works, such as unrequited love and the reversing of male and female roles, were first developed in these poems.
‘Nor marble, nor the gilded monuments Of princes shall outlive this pow’rful rhyme’
Please note that Letterpress Shakespeare volumes are bound to order and may take up to 6 weeks to be delivered.
If you are a collector of all the volumes we have published so far in the series, we have reserved your individual limitation number for you.
Read more about the life and work of William Shakespeare
Delivery of limited editions may take longer than standard editions. Please contact us for more information.
It was not until 1609 – exactly 400 years ago – that Shakespeare’s Sonnets were first published, though they were circulated privately before then. This edition is based on the Oxford University Press text, edited by Professor Colin Burrow, which is now considered the definitive complete text of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and other poems. This limited edition is accompanied by a 760-page Commentary volume written and edited by Professor Burrow, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. With detailed notes on every poem, as well as essays on their history, composition and meaning, it is the most authoritative guide to Shakespeare’s poetry in existence.