William Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets on subjects ranging from love and beauty to time and mortality, and this audiobook presents them all, narrated with empathy and brio by Royal Shakespeare Company actor Alex Jennings. Groundbreaking and unusual at the time they were published, Shakespeare's sonnets are still thought-provoking today, with many lines that are oft-referenced in modern literature and popular culture, from "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" in Sonnet 18, to "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" in Sonnet 130. With their rolling cadence and dramatic subjects, these poems are at their best when performed live, as this compelling recording more than proves.
Everyone knows something of Shakespeare's sonnets, even if only in memorable fragments like "the darling buds of May", or "remembrance of things past", or "the marriage of true minds". For centuries these wonderfully crafted, intense lyrics have stood for something valued about youth, love, and the emotional complexities belonging to that time of life. This new recording presents all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets, using the New Cambridge Shakespeare texts.
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I have not heard other readings of the sonnets, so I don't know how this one compares with the others available. But the narrator's voice is pleasant and generally easy to follow (although he sometimes reads a little too fast for my taste).
But what I like most about this recording are the musical interludes (each lasting approx. 30-60 seconds) that precede each group of six sonnets. The music seems to date from the Tudor era and is played on the lute and/or similar plucked instruments. Whoever chose the music did an excellent job, I think, because the pieces are consistently of the highest quality. (Fortunately there is no music playing DURING the readings, but only before them.)
"20 May 1609 - 2009"
Alex Jennings is the best of the few in his generation who can do this very particular performance superbly (Brian Shelley, possibly, is my equal favourite)
We should all be listening to them from this week onwards - it was 20 May 1609 that WS took em in to be published !
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