Choice Review

“Departing emphatically from studies that have treated Shakespeare’s sonnets as autobiography, timeless expressions of love, formal works of art, and so on, Matz (George Mason Univ.) focuses instead on helping the reader understand the cultural/social world in which the sonnets were written–that is, on reading the sonnets through the eyes of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. The result is the most realistically balanced, generally honest guide to these remarkable poems that this reviewer has encountered. Along the way one is more amused than instructed by the vagaries of earlier interpreters, many of whom reveal more about themselves than about the poet or the sonnets. Not the least of Matz’s achievements in his defense of a secure place in Shakespeare’s canon for erotic poems to a young man and vitriolic poems to a black mistress (dropping the traditional euphemism “dark lady”), all in a series reflecting a tangled love triangle. Highly recommended.”