20 November 2013

Beyond Irony?

H. Bloom in the Foreword to Living with Shakespeare: Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors.
Shakespeare is so advanced in irony that we never will catch up.  There is but one Sonnet in the sequence which is beyond irony, and that is 129, "Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame," which affrights us but will not let us go.  Here, perhaps nowhere else, the force of Shakespeare's sentiment becomes just as strong as his craft.  He is one with the Sonnet's speaker, momentarily and deliberately giving in to madness as perhaps the last defense there ever can be against the lure of that perilous imbalance.  There may be elements of Shakespeare himself in Hamlet and in Falstaff...but in those dramatic instances the craft outlasts the sentiment.
So, these words make sense--that is I can make sense of what Bloom seems to be saying.  That Shakespeare's strength is in his ironic stance as an author.  But then if this sonnet is "beyond irony" does that just mean Bloom thinks it isn't ironic and instead is "sentimental" ("beyond" not really having significance here)?  And so does "sentiment" mean there is a person there who "feels" and reveals that feeling as being attached to the life-experience of the author?  That is what the rest of the statement seems to say.

Thoughts?  Does this change the sonnet's value as art, as expression, as biography?  Is it a better sonnet or worse?  Is there some kind of "irony/sentiment" scale that we apply to aesthetics?

Here's Sonnet 129:
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
   All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
   To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

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