A Mirror for Lovers: Shake-speare's Sonnets as Curious Perspective, by William F. Zak, seeks to identify in Shake-speare'e sonnet sequence the structural and thematic features of the satirical tradition born in Plato's Symposium. Through this study, Zak traces the power of an idea to endure, re-animate, and enrich itself through time: Plato's discrimination of the true nature of love in The Symposium. Born anew in its medieval reincarnations (The Romance of the Rose, The Vita Nuova, and The Canzoniere of Petrarch), the tradition begun in Plato's Symposium was then resuscitated in the Elizabethan sonnet sequence revival, most notably in Shake-speare's Sonnets. With extended examination of all the texts in the Q manuscript, A Mirror for Lovers makes a case for the mutually illuminating relationship among the sonnets to the fair young man and the dark lady, “A Lover's Complaint,” and the mysterious dedication that until now have never received attention as an integral symbolic matrix of meaning.
William F Zak —
William F. Zak (PhD, University of Michigan) is Emeritus Professor of English at Salisbury University in Maryland. Thinking and writing about Shakespeare's sonnets have absorbed the greater part of his working energies since his retirement from teaching in 2002. His previous work includes a study of King Lear entitled Sovereign Shame (Bucknell, 1984) and The Polis and the Divine Order: The Oresteia, Sophocles, and the Defense of Democracy (Bucknell, 1995). Currently he is completing monographs on Antony and Cleopatra and on Hamlet.
Zak, William F. A mirror for lovers: Shake-speare's sonnets as curious perspective. Lexington Books, 2013. 595p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780739175101; ISBN 9780739175118 e-book. Reviewed in 2013jul CHOICE.
As Zak (emer., Salisbury Univ.) explains in the preface to his study of Shakespeare's sonnets (where he also explains the idiosyncratic spelling of Will-I-Am Shake-speare), readers will need a copy of the Quarto version of the poems in front of them since this book includes none of the full texts. This work joins other valuable, close readings and assessments of the sonnets (e.g., studies by Stephen Booth, Katherine Duncan-Jones, and Helen Vendler). The author credits the individual scholars in this long critical tradition, expanding on and arguing against some views and offering his own insights. He traces the structure and themes of the sonnets back to Plato's Symposium, through the Middle Ages, and into early modern England. Zak addresses "A Lover's Complaint" and the ambiguous "Dedication" of Shakespeare's sonnets in some detail. He analyzes a variety of subjects, including Shakespeare's conflicted views on love and hate, the procreation group, and his dark lady, and provides notes after each chapter to augment and document his research. But some of the writing is dense, disorganized, and difficult to follow, and this long book unfortunately lacks a conclusion summarizing its main arguments.
Summing Up: Recommended. For comprehensive research collections. -- J. S. Carducci, Winona State University