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The 154 sonnets penned by William Shakespeare are among the greatest poems ever written in the English language. Love, jealousy, despair, humility, and pride—the same passions dominate the sonnets that are familiar to us from the author’s plays.

Unfortunately, many people have read these masterpieces of lyric poetry for the mystery they imply than for their beauty. While each sonnet is a poem unto itself, they make up two distinct narratives: those of the fair youth (sonnets 1–126) and the dark lady (sonnets 127–152). To date, neither the history behind these sonnets nor the identity of their addressees has become known.

Yet, according to Professor Anatoly Liberman, the perennial appeal of the sonnets lies in their literary worth, rather than the information they may provide to the poet's biographers.

“From a literary standpoint, Shakespeare’s sonnets stretched the strict conventions of the Petrarchan sonnet, which was popular at the time,” says Liberman. “Rather than focus on courtly or unobtainable love in a conventional way, Shakespeare paved the way for modern romantic poetry by conveying love as complex, earthy, and often controversial.”

Join Professor Liberman for a pre-Valentine afternoon of decadent sweets, libations, and poetry. We’ll look at the picture of the world's depravity, follow the progress of Shakespeare’s unrequited love, and share his "waste of spirit in the expense of shame."

Tuition includes dessert and coffee/tea. Space is limited. Registrations must be received by February 11. A cash bar featuring champagne drinks and other poetic elixirs will be available.

Anatoly Liberman is a professor in the Department of German, Scandinavian, and Dutch at the University of Minnesota where he teaches courses in linguistics, etymology, and folklore. An internationally renowned scholar of word origins, Liberman discusses the topic regularly on MPR and is the author of Word Origins and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone (Oxford University Press, 2005). English literature, including the work of William Shakespeare, has been at the center of Liberman’s interest since his youth.

        Offered in cooperation with the Campus Club of the University of Minnesota.

Cancellations are subject to a 10 percent processing fee if received five or fewer working days before the program start. Refunds are not granted if you cancel on or after the first day of the program. Notice may be emailed to ccapsinfo@umn.edu.

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