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How do I write a thesis statement to describe Shakespeare's style of writing sonnets in...

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ellailah87 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2013 at 1:38 PM via web

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How do I write a thesis statement to describe Shakespeare's style of writing sonnets in relation to the elements of theatre that appear in them with reference to Heather Dubrow's article, "Shakespeare's Undramatic Monologues"?

You can read the article here: http://tinyurl.com/co6qzkl

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 19, 2013 at 4:08 PM (Answer #1)

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There needs to be a correction to your question: Dubrow writes about dramatic elements, elements of drama, which is different from the elements of theater. Elements of theater include such things as set, lighting, stage directions, sound effects, props etc. Dubrow of course does not refer to these things when considering Shakespeare's sonnets. Instead, she refers to elements of dramatic composition like temporality (time), characters, location and relationships.

For a thesis, you can draw your idea (1) from deeper analysis of points she brings up; (2) from weaknesses in her argument; (3) from agreement or disagreement with her assertions. Since a thesis in Literature might be described as your "Bright Idea" about some aspect of a text you've read and an analysis you've made, no one can develop a thesis for you. Your Bright Idea must come from within, but I can point you to some things Dubrow says that might inspire a bright idea.

WEAKNESS IN HER ARGUMENT: One weakness in her argument relates to who is addressed in the sonnets. To support her argument that Shakespeare's sonnet sequence (also called "sonnet cycle") is neither narrative nor dramatic, she makes the point that his sonnets are not addressed to the beloved. She uses Sonnet 87 as an example. It might be more accurate to say that, in comparison to Sidney's, Spenser's and Plutarch's sonnet cycles, Shakespeare's are not as directly addressed to the beloved as these others who address theirs to specific women: "Stella," Elizabeth Boyles, and "Laura." It seems, though, in her example, 87, that, although it is reflective, there is a beloved indirectly addressed as opposed to reflectively addressing his own musings: 

Thyself thou gav'st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gavest, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgement making.
   Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter,
   In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.

A second weakness is her conclusion that the many puns on "will" are actually puns on his own name. This seems problematic to prove at best. One point that is clear however is that Shakespeare's sonnet sequence is essentially different from Sidney's, Spenser's and Petarch's.

Some of the points Dubrow makes about Shakespeare's sonnets, any of which might inspire a thesis topic, are these that follow.

  • Shakespeare's sonnets are not dramatic as they lack dramatic elements, like agents of action and temporality, and are rather reflexive, reflecting his own musings.
  • They are not narrative having no beginning, middle and end and telling no temporal, locative, situational story as other cycles, like Sidney's, do.
  • They are not specifically addressed to someone as a listener or a recipient; they are more private records of contemplation.
  • They are not temporal nor locative. They do not refer to "On Tuesday" as Petrarch's do nor to "One day" as Spenser's do. They do not refer to place, like the Thames, as Sidney's do.
  • They are not narrative accounts of past situational events for they are written in literary present tense. Dubrow's examples are: "When I consider everything that grows" (Sonnet 15); "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past" (Sonnet 30).
  • They are not obviously autobiographical like Sidney's, Spenser's and Petrarch's (Spenser married the Elizabeth of his sonnets).
  • There is an absence from Shakespeare's cycle of anecdotal sonnets that tell situational events.
  • Shakespeare's sonnets are thus not situational but rather problemical: they reflect upon problems that are presented in paradox and resolved in the couplet.
  • Since they don't tell stories, they equally don't enact dramas; they are not dramas.
  • The conflicts revealed in the sonnets--usually as paradoxes--are "internalized within the speaker" not "dramatized as characters."

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