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  • Cited by 12
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
August 2019
Print publication year:
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Book description

Why did no one read Sonnet 18 for over one hundred years? What traumatic memories did Sonnet 111 conjure up for Charles Dickens? Which Sonnet did Wilfred Owen find particularly offensive on the WW1 battlefront? What kind of love does Sonnet 116 celebrate and why? Filling a surprising gap in Shakespeare studies, this book offers a challenging new reception history of the Sonnets and explores their belated entry into the Shakespeare canon. Jane Kingsley-Smith reveals the fascinating cultural history of individual Sonnets, identifying those which were particularly influential and exploring why they rose to prominence. This is a highly original study which argues that we should redirect our attention away from the story that the Sonnets tell as a sequence, to the fascinating afterlife of individual Shakespeare Sonnets.


‘Kingsley-Smith's fascinating and exhaustive exploration of literary taste invites serious students of Shakespeare into the world of audience participation and interpretation.'

M. H. Kealy Source: Choice


Katherine Craik Source: Times Literary Supplement

‘The Afterlife of Shakespeare’s Sonnets is a valuable book … It significantly deepens and widens our understanding of the sonnets’ complex history of reception along the chronological lines indicated above.’

Jonathan F. S. Post Source: Modern Philology

‘A particular forte of Kingsley-Smith’s book is her ability to read the poems as they might have struck their original readers coming upon them for the first time, without any preconceived ideas about Dark Ladies and Fair Friends.’

Paul JCM Franssen Source: Cahiers Élisabéthains

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