Peter Medine

Peter Medine, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of Arizona

March 6, 2024,


ASA Koffler Great Room and Zoom


Shakespeare’s Sonnets in 1609 loom Everest-like in the tradition of English lyric poetry. The author’s success is all the more remarkable in view of the sonnet’s brevity of 14 lines and what might appear the narrowness of so personal a subject as romantic love.

Peter Medine will inquire into the source of the collection’s pre-eminence through an examination of three of its sonnets: No. 116 “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”; No. 129 “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame”; and No. 29 “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”.  By attending to metrics, rime, figurative language, and structure, we shall watch Shakespeare develop, broaden, and deepen the poetic significance of his subject.  The approach will reveal the distinctive theme of each of the three poems: the supreme ideal of romantic love as the embodiment of human commitment; the fraught nature of sexual passion; and finally, love’s miraculous power to transform one’s life, if not one’s world. The range and amplitude of the three poems are staggering, the poetic technique unsurpassed. Small wonder that Shakespeare’s contemporary, Ben Jonson, would write that his works were “not of an age, but for all time.”

Peter E. Medine is Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, where he served in the English Department from 1969 to 2014. He has written, edited, or co-edited seven books in Early Modern English studies. His most recent co-edited book is Visionary Milton: Essays in Prophecy and Violence (2010). He is the recipient of several Humanities Seminars Superior Teaching Awards and the College of Humanities Award for Outreach Service.

Compiled and edited by Rosemary Brown

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Mar. 6 “Three Shakespeare Sonnets: the Lyric Poem and the Subject of Romantic Love”