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Shakespeare's Spiritual Sonnets

Shakespeare's Spiritual Sonnets

by John T. Noonan Jr


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Berkeley's John Noonan presents the case for a new reading of
22 of Shakespeare's Sonnets

Berkeley, California. John T. Noonan, Jr., U.C. Berkeley professor and federal judge, is the author of Shakespeare's Spiritual Sonnets just published by Amazon. Noonan presents argument and analysis of the Sonnets pointing to addressees of these poems far from the usual suspects. His candidates include God, the Virgin Mary, Mother Church, and Jesuit missionaries to England. He himself acknowledges his own reluctance to believe that the Bard was "mixed up with Jesuits."
Imagine for a moment discovering new poems by Shakespeare.
Noonan discards the assumption that the Sonnets reflect the course of two or more love affairs. Observing that it is generally agreed that some of the Sonnets are commissioned work urging a young man to marry, and that two sonnets are addressed to the poet's soul, he argues that each of the remaining sonnets should be examined in terms of its particular purpose and addressee. His analysis is both negative, pointing to substantial difficulties and gaps in the standard approach, and positive, showing the probability of a different reading. Not by Euclidean logic, he writes, but by a convergence of probabilities is the case made.
Noonan's interpretation sets the 22 sonnets firmly in the context of religious controversy and compelled conformity in Queen Elizabeth's Britain and in the larger context of continental currents of theology. Shakespeare, Noonan notes, was a man of his time, and the time extends back to Pope Gregory's dispatch of missionaries to England a thousand years earlier.
Noonan offers a spectrum within which he suggests that Shakespeare fits. At one end is William Byrd, composer for Queen Elizabeth and composer of masses and motets for the Catholic underground. At the other end of the spectrum is Robert Southwell, S.J., sought, caught, and hung as a priest criminally present in the country. Between them, Noonan places Shakespeare, who borrowed ideas and inspiration from Southwell's poems and who emulated Byrd in his ability to please the queen and to enhearten his own disfavored community.
Noonan's book is likely to lead many lovers of Shakespeare to look at the Sonnets afresh.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456586836
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 11/08/2011
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

John T. Noonan, Jr. is the author of books on the development of moral teaching in Christianity, most notably on annulment and divorce, bribery, and contraception. In 2004, he gave the Erasmus Lectures at the University of Notre Dame, subsequently published as A Church That Can And Cannot Change. He is also a writer on law, having given the Holmes Lectures at Harvard Law School, subsequently published as Persons and Masks of the Law.
The works of Shakespeare have been for him a second Bible. He has been a student of Shakespeare for most of his life. At Harvard he acted in As You Like It and wrote a prize-winning essay on Antony and Cleopatra. He continued his studies in English literature at St. John's College, the University of Cambridge.
He has been Robbins Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley; chairman of Religious Studies at that university; and a federal circuit judge for over twenty years. He brings to this book extensive experience in the evaluation of evidence; distinctive insights into the theological issues of Shakespeare's day from Canterbury to Cordova; and a sensitivity to the psyche of a committed and critical Catholic.

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