Did William Shakespeare write a heretofore unknown sonnet, “To The Deserving Author”, to his friend Ben Jonson?
Let me see if I’ve got this straight. There’s a page in the playbook of Jonson’s Sejanus: His Fall containing two poems dedicated to Jonson. One, we apparently know, is by Hugh Holland. The other, the sonnet in question, is signed with the pseudonym Cygnus.
You know what cygnus means in Latin, right? It means swan.
You know what Ben Jonson called Shakespeare in the First Folio, too, I bet. You got it. Some feel that both must have been written by Holland. But is it possible that Cygnus is Shakespeare?
The sonnet is provided in the accompanying article. Thoughts? It feels a little stilted at times, which makes me lean toward “not Shakespeare,” but I’m hardly an academic at these things.
Still, it’s always exciting to think “maybe new Shakespaere content?” I’m always open to the possibility.
2 thoughts on “Sincerely, Cygnus”
I look forward to taking a look at the book, and I’m open to there being more Shakespeare in the world (Love’s Labour’s Found, anyone?) . . . but I’m very skeptical.
On the subjective side, it just doesn’t sound like Shakespeare. I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare and a lot of his contemporaries—both their drama and their sonnet sequences—and this sounds like someone else.
On the objective side, this would be the first Italian (a.k.a. Petrarchan) sonnet Shakespeare wrote. To be convincing, the argument in favor of its being Shakespeare’s needs to have a lot of strength just to overcome this point.
Yes, there are irregular sonnets in Shakespeare’s collected sonnets (published, it is extremely likely, without the author seeing it through the press), but nothing that irregular. Sonnet 126 is all couplets (and only twelve lines long); Sonnet 99 has an extra line, but it’s generally English (a.k.a. Shakespearean) in its rhyme scheme. Sonnet 145 has a different meter, but its rhyme scheme follows that of the English sonnet.
That’s a first take. But it would be great to be proved wrong!
Thanks for calling our collective attention to this, Shakespeare Geek!
Also, “Cygnus” is clearly an initialism that stands for “C You Guys? Not ur Shakespeare.”