Short Reviews by Kim Stafford & Three Others 



On October 14, 2007, 

Kim Stafford wrote:


Kim Stafford

NW Writing Institute 

at Lewis & Clark College


Christopher Larkin

15 October 2007

Cheryl Renée Long

5 July 2007

Lance Sparks

17 October 2007




By Kim Stafford (Portland, OR USA)

With this book readers have the chance to re-consider Shakespeare's poetry with a great teacher as well as an insightful reader and careful scholar. Jensen really wants his readers to see these sonnets in a new way, and to participate in the investigation he skillfully leads. After years of learning about Shakespeare from "pure" scholars who lived bounded by a single disicipline, I go into this book delighted by its combination of provocative literary analysis, number puzzles, original lines of inquiry, a friendly (and funny!) teacher's companionship, and an infectious delight in plumbing the secrets of these poems. Get out your Shakespeare, open Jensen's volume, and read two books at once.


More Helpful Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars  Finally, the sonnets are fun as well as serious, October 15, 2007
By Christopher Larkin (Minneapolis)   
As a current PhD candidate in English Literature of this period, I fully appreciate Jensen's dynamic approach to the Sonnets. In happy contrast with most didactic institutional publication on the subject, Jensen's work is more about the questions, the possibilities, and the "what ifs" than in telling us what to think.

What if Amelia Lanyer is the dark lady? Where can we find her name disguised phonetically in the Sonnets?
What if Henry Wroithesley and Christopher Marlowe are directly addressed in the Sonnets?

Never pushy, yet always suggestive, the text asks you to consider, to question, to weigh the evidence for yourself; to look at "ten sonnets that MAY track venereal disease" [emphasis mine] or to compare names from the plays with code-names from the Sonnets. The reader is never told "this is the only way to read, this is the only answer," but rather is directly challenged to delve even further.

In combining contemporary history, biography, bibliography, current events, and astronomy alongside close readings of the text, Jensen continually pursues the slipperiest questions without ever forcing the reader to agree: if you consider the evidence and consider the text, you can make your own decisions. Don't deny the possibilites.

For readers of Shakespeare at any level, this book suggests that you slow down and look for the word games and personal connections that the Bard certainly intended to imbed.

Overall, the attitude, approach, and voice are engaging and refreshing. Jensen encourages us to do what we should be doing as readers of intelligent and carefull-crafted poetry: stick close to the text (line by line, sound by sound), ask questions, and open up discussion on the topics that present themselves.

  5.0 out of 5 stars 
A layperson finally turns on to Shakespeare!, July 5, 2007
I am not a Shakespeare scholar. I like Shakespeare best when it stars Kenneth Branaugh and shows up on the big screen. But I love Secrets of The Sonnets Shakespeare's Code by Peter Jensen. Why the sudden change of heart? This book is funny! It is hilarious. Jensen's humor mimics that of old Will himself; sometimes wry, sometimes clever, often crude and usually sexy.

I am a big whodunnit fan and this book is one big mystery and puzzle. Jensen has finally produced a book that can be appreciated by anyone with a sense of humor. No more stuffy classroom Shakespeare. I enjoyed it, and I recommend it!

Not so long ago, scholarship was the domain explored by persons driven by a passion for knowing something about something. Scholarship was not then limited to academe, and if some exploring mind made discoveries those could be posted in some form and considered by others interested in a subject, then evaluated merely on their merits.

Peter Jensen's work on Shakespeare's sonnets deserves attention for its own merits, not for how well his insights accord with the current orthodoxy accumulated in academic scholarship. Jensen, I know full well, worked for a decade on the hints he found of coded content in the sonnets. Like any good scholar, Jensen read whatever he could find that bore on the matter. He kept meticulous records of his own analyses, carefully constructing his findings over the years, testing his views as he formed them, reading his Ms to others and inviting responses.

This work will open up new dimensions for the study of Shakespeare's sonnets. It will also serve as an instructive example to students for what scholars can find when they pursue knowledge passionately.