Choice Outstanding Academic Text
Award Winner for 2008

"Matz proves himself to be a sharp and subtle analyst of individual Sonnets, and he forges a workably convincing connection between the power relations of courtly love and—for instance—the “masochistic intensity” (88) of a poem such as Sonnet 57 (“Being your slave”). He is also clever, and convincing, in teasing out the essential offensiveness of virtually all of what he calls the “black mistress sonnets” (7), including some of those that have generally been found more pleasing, such as Sonnet 128 (“How oft when thou, my music, music play’st”). As he lucidly observes, “Shakespeare” (as he calls the speaker throughout) “wouldn’t talk sexually to the young man in the way he talks to the black mistress” (116). Here, as elsewhere, the speaker’s “teasing tends to slide from playful eroticism to insult” (117). Matz is also highly attuned to the speaker’s complex and uncomfortable inner life, and he argues “that the black mistress serves as a scapegoat for anxieties about duplicity or sin in the relationships between fair young men” (147). 

--Shakespeare Quarterly


Choice Magazine

"The most realistically balanced, generally honest guide to these remarkable poems that this reviewer has encountered."  read more  

Jonathan Goldberg,
Emory University

"This is the book I would recommend to any novice and even to more experienced readers approaching the sonnets." read more

Nichole Lehman,
Chantilly High School

"This book will come in handy when I teach the sonnets." read more

Katherine Duncan-Jones, editor of the Arden Sonnets,
Oxford  University

"Matz proves himself to be a sharp and subtle analyst of individual Sonnets."
read more