The Poetry and the Drama
             MOTTO: Know you not that I must be about my mother's business

  • William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy details the logical
    structure of the philosophy in Shakespeare's 1609 Sonnets.

    Volume 1: Contents and Introduction (45 book pages)

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearean Thought
    The Quaternary Institute
    Quaternary Institute & Quaternary Imprint



    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.


    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

           William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy (2005), is a four Volume slipcase set that presents the philosophy embedded by Shakespeare in his Sonnets of 1609.
           The four Volume set has been reissued in hardback and paperback editions (2018 to 2020) that are available individually through online publishing (see Quaternary Imprint).
           In addition, all 1760 pages of the four Volumes are now ready for viewing on the Quaternary Institute Website.

           VOLUME 1: The 560 pages of the first Volume explain Shakespeare's nature-based philosophy in detail, with Appendices and a Glossary that provide further analysis.
           VOLUME 2: The 372 pages of the second Volume provide commentaries on the 154 individual sonnets, and critiques the history of egregious emendations.
           VOLUME 3:The 488 pages of the third Volume selections provide commentaries on Shakespeare's four longer poems and five of the plays from the 1623 Folio.
           VOLUME 4: The 284 pages of the fourth Volume consider proto-quaternary thinkers and artists whose combined insights led to an understanding of Shakespeare's Sonnet philosophy, and then critiques ten thinkers who tried but failed to appreciate the nature-based Sonnet philosophy behind all thirty-six plays in the 1623 Folio.

    Contents and Introduction from Volume 1


      List of Illustrations
        A Description of the book known as Q
          Title page
    The Sonnets
    The K and A
    A Lover's Complaint
    The layout in Q
        The possibility of a philosophy in Shake-speares Sonnets
    The logical arrangement of the Sonnets
          Nature and the sexual dynamic
    Truth and beauty
    The Nature template
    The Poet
        The influence of Darwin, Wittgenstein and Duchamp
    The significance of Shakespeare's philosophy
    Other introductory matters
          The function of the numerology
    The process of mystic addition
    The facsimile of Q and the modern English editions
    The naming of Nature and nature
    The philosophy of the Sonnets and the Sonnet philosophy
    The use of the Glossary
    The relation of the Sonnets to the poems and plays

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    Part 5
    Nature and the sexual dynamic
    The 154 sonnet as a unity
    The 154 sonnets as a unity
    The Sonnets, male or female
    Nature, the sovereign mistress
    Nature, unity and diversity
    Nature and the arrangement of the sonnets in Q
    Time in the Sonnets
    The division into two sequences
    The traditional names given the female and male
    The female as Mistress
    The male as Master Mistress or youth
    The 28 Mistress sonnets
    The 28 Mistress sonnets as a unity
    The priority of the Mistress over the Master Mistress
    The Mistress and the Poet
    The structure for music
    Truth and beauty in the Mistress sequence
    The Poet and the Mistress
    The last two sonnets
    126 sonnets to the Master Mistress or youth
    The Master Mistress as less than unity
    The Master Mistress and the Poet
    The Master Mistress and time
    Truth and beauty in the Master Mistress sequence
    The audit of the Master Mistress
    The Nature template

    The increase argument
    Internal structure of the Master Mistress sonnets
    The increase argument
    The 14 increase sonnets
    The inherent order in sonnets 20 to 154
    The order of presentation in Q
    Increase and truth and beauty in the first 14 sonnets
    The significance of the number 14
    The symbolism of 14
    The argument of the individual increase sonnets
    Sonnet 11
    Birth, death and life
    Sonnets 9 and 10 and the basis of love
    Sonnets 3 and 13, mother and father
    Sonnet 14, the priority of increase
    The increase template
    The body template
    The persistence of the increase argument
    The increase argument in the poems and plays

    Truth and beauty
    The words truth and beauty
    The logical conditions for truth and beauty
    The inherent order of the truth and beauty sonnets
    The positioning of the truth and beauty sonnets
    The poetry and increase sonnets (15 to 19)
    The individual poetry and increase sonnets
    The introduction of the Poet
    The Poet's relation to the set of 154 sonnets
    The Poet of the Sonnets
    The Poet as male or female
    The rival poet
    Increase and truth and beauty in the first sonnet
    Truth and beauty in sonnets 20 to 154
    The logical divisions in the truth and beauty sonnets
    Truth and beauty in the Master Mistress sequence
    Truth and beauty in the Mistress sequence
    The mythic possibility
    Truth and beauty in sonnets 20 to 126
    From increase to truth and beauty
    The pattern of truth and beauty in the youth sequence
    The introduction of the major themes
    Sonnets 20/21, beauty and the Muse
    Sonnet 22 and personae
    Sonnet 23 and writing
    Sonnet 24 and the eyes
    Sonnets 25 and 26 and stars
    Sonnets 27, 28, 43, and 61 as consecutive sonnets
    Sonnets 29 and 30 and the priority of increase
    Sonnet 31 and the cost of idealism
    Sonnet 32 and the rival poet
    Sonnets 33, 34, 35, the ideal in truth and beauty
    Sonnet 37 and truth and beauty
    Sonnet 38 and the relation of 9, 1, and 10
    Sonnets 41 and 42, the youth and the Mistress
    Sonnet 44 and 45 and the four elements
    Sonnets 46 and 47, the eyes and heart
    Sonnets 48 and 49, personae
    Sonnets 50, 51, and 52, the journey to maturity
    Sonnet 53 and increase by the millions
    Sonnet 54 and truth and beauty
    Sonnet 55 and the content of verse
    Sonnets 57 to 60,and 63 to 65, sonnets to time
    Sonnet 62 and truth and beauty
    Sonnets 63 to 65, the theme of poetry to life
    Sonnet 66 and truth
    Sonnets 67 and 68, nature/Nature
    Sonnet 69 and truth and beauty
    Sonnets with contemporary references
    Sonnets 71 to 75, death and life
    Sonnets 76 and 77, the content of poetry
    The rival poet sonnets, 78 to 86
    Sonnets 87 to 94, the cost of the ideal
    Sonnets 95 and 96, beauty and then truth
    Sonnets 97 and 98 on increase
    Sonnet 99 in 15 lines
    Sonnets 100 to 103, truth and beauty and the Muse
    Sonnet 104, the natural cycle of maturity
    Sonnet 105, idolatry
    Sonnet 106 and the vanity of writing
    Sonnets 110 and 111, God and Nature
    Sonnets 115 and 116, the truth of increase
    Sonnets 117 to 119, the benefit of ill
    Sonnets 120, 121, the nature of evil
    Sonnets 123, 124, the foiling of time
    Sonnet 125, the youth's choice
    Sonnet 126, the final audit
    Truth and beauty in sonnets 127 to 154
    The organisation of the Mistress sequence
    Sonnet 127, beauty introduced
    Sonnet 128, the second music sonnet
    Sonnet 129, the expense of Spirit
    Sonnet 130, the five senses
    Sonnets 131 and 132, good and bad deeds
    Sonnets 133 and 134, the Mistress and the youth
    Sonnets 135 and 136, the Will sonnets
    Sonnet 137, beauty as seeing, truth as saying
    Sonnet 138, the Mistress swears
    Sonnet 139, the eye and the tongue
    Sonnet 140, wise and cruel
    Sonnets 142 and 143, analysis of truth
    Sonnet 143, increase revisited
    Sonnet 144, the youth, the Mistress and the Poet
    Sonnet 145, the source of Shakespeare's poetry
    Sonnet 146, the cost of souls
    Sonnet 147, truth reiterated
    Sonnets 148 to 150, truth and true sight
    Sonnet 151, love and conscience
    Sonnet 152, truth unequivocal
    Sonnets 153 and 154, the erotic finale
    Summary of truth and beauty in sonnets 20 to 154
    The Rose and the Muse
    The Rose and Eros
    The 9 Muses of old
    Sonnet 1, beauty's Rose
    Sonnet 35, the cankered Rose
    Sonnet 54, the Rose and truth
    Sonnets 67 and 68, the Rose and store
    Sonnets 95 and 98, truth from the Rose
    Sonnet 99, the Poet's blushing shame
    Sonnet 109, the universal Rose/Eros
    Sonnet 130, the Mistress' Rose
    The Muse
    Sonnet 21, the lesser Muse
    Sonnet 32, the Poet's Muse
    Sonnet 38, the Muses reconciled
    Sonnets 78 to 86 to the rival poet
    Sonnet 100 to 103, the definitive Muse
    The eyes, the source of truth and beauty
    Sonnet 14, knowledge from the eyes
    Sonnets 15, 25, 26 and 28, the starry eyes
    Sonnet 116, the erotic star
    Sonnet 132, the morning eyes
    The logic of the stars
    Sonnet 24 and others, from eye to mind to heart
    Sonnet 55 and others, the eye as sexual organ
    Ideas and sensations
    Ethics and aesthetics
    The truth and beauty template
    The Nature templates
    The correct multiplicity

    The logic of myth
    Shakespeare's natural logic
    The preconditions for mythic expression
    From the Nature/female/male dynamic to the mythic
    Standard definitions of sexual and erotic
    The female and male as the premises for argument
    The Sonnets as template for the argument of the plays
    The female and male in the argument of the plays
    The parody in the plays of inconsistent argument
    The relation of male and female in biblical thought
    The feminine and the masculine
    The role of the Master Mistress
    The feminine male and the masculine female
    The illogical relation of feminine and masculine
    The Poet as person and persona
    The sexual and the erotic
    The sexual dynamic
    The transition from the sexual to the erotic
    The erotic dynamic
    Immortality: Nature, the sexual, or the erotic
    Immortality in the poetry and increase sonnets
    Immortality in other sonnets to the youth
    The mythic Poet in Nature
    The mythic Poet and the sexual/erotic dynamic
    The mythic Poet and the rival poet sonnets
    The mythic numerology
    The Poet's complete logic
    The logical conditions for any mythic expression
    Models of inconsistency

    The cryptic numerology
    The encrypted numerology of the Dedication etc
    The Dedication and sonnet 126
    The K A, and the Mr.W. H.
    Sonnets 135 and 136
    Sonnet 145
    Sonnet 99
    Diagram of the shape of the whole set
    A Lover's Complaint






    Facsimile of Q





    Truth and beauty in Q
    Sonnet terms in prefaces and poems from 1599 to 1640
    Logically connected sonnets in Q
    Numerological references in Q
    Judgment and knowledge in Q
    The Rose and Muse in Q
    Capitals in Q
    The 'eye' in Q
    Concordance of selected words


    Selected Bibliography






    When I look back over the last 25 years, I can identify a series of events that led to the appreciation of Shakespeare’s philosophy presented here for the first time. While in retrospect many youthful experiences were influential, it was not until the early 1970s that the first significant event occurred. At the time I was a student at the School of Fine Arts in Auckland. For the first year or so my work was modeled on the stimulus provided by the programmes of the School. Then, in the second year after the birth of a daughter, I experienced an elevated sense of creativity resulting in a series of works of greater purpose and intensity.
            In the following years I tried to capitalise on the new source of inspiration but was unable to sustain the impetus. As the work faltered I resolved to search for criteria that enabled depth and consistency in the artistic process. The fundamental questioning of the idea of art by the avant-garde movements of the early 1970s deepened my interest in such seminal figures as the French artist Marcel Duchamp, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the biologist Charles Darwin. A study of their ideas led to an investigation across a wide range of interests but with no immediate answer to the question of consistency. Instead, the influence of Wittgenstein led to an interest in the social programme of the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy who had turned his back on his major works to write criticism and parables. I experienced a strong desire to explore the priority of life over art.
            It was in this frame of mind that we, my partner Maree, my daughters and I, considered moving from Auckland into the countryside. I had been raised on the central plateau of the North Island under Mount Ruapehu so the idea of revisiting the mountains was appealing. In 1981 we moved to provincial life under its near neighbour Mount Taranaki where our youngest daughter was born. With the move I renewed the process of rejigging my mind. I read widely and thought at length about the impasse of the Auckland years.
            Around 1985 a set of circumstances led to a health crisis out of which I struggled. In that period, in which morning and night I walked the road (Ladies Mile) around our property, the philosophic realisation that preceded the insights into the Sonnets came with a rush of clarity. My thoughts found their correct logical place whenever I held the underlying idea in mind. Though I had no capacity to articulate such a claim, I sensed I had moved past the difficulties in Wittgenstein’s work. I wrote the thoughts out and aired them briefly but without consequence.
            In 1988 I began a period of figurative sculpture. After an exhibition in Wanganui, in 1994, a friend handed me a copy of Ted Hughes’ Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. As a result I began attending monthly Shakespeare readings in Wanganui to familiarise myself with the plays. When, a year later, the group read the whole set of Shake-speares Sonnets I was struck with the realisation that they embodied the same paradigm as the one I had written out in a rudimentary way 8 years before. The intensity of the realisation corresponded to the sculptural surge in 1972 and the rush of ideas in 1986.
            For the next few months I experienced a series of revelations that exposed and clarified the structure and themes of the Sonnets. Night and day the interrelating elements and the corresponding numerology pieced themselves together. I was stunned by the philosophic brilliance expressed so beautifully in the form of sonnets. I apprehended then, and claim now, that the Sonnets present the logical conditions for a complete philosophy, as well as the criteria for effective artistic practice at a mythic level of expression. In the period since 1995 there has been a continual unraveling of the meaning of the Sonnets.
            The book prepared from the findings of the last few years, details the philosophy of William Shakespeare evident in the Sonnets, poems, and plays. To do this with some coherence, and to do justice to the amount of original material, the book has been divided into four volumes. At all times it should be remembered that the four volumes are one book. If a point about the Sonnet philosophy seems to be addressed cursorily or inadequately in one volume, there is every likelihood it is addressed at length elsewhere.
            The first volume presents the philosophy of Shake-speares Sonnets. The philosophy was structured and numbered into the Sonnets by Shakespeare before its publication in 1609 in the book known as Q. The volume shows how the structure of the whole set of 154 sonnets is the key to understanding its inherent logic. It demonstrates how Shakespeare was able to use the sonnet form to present a philosophic treatise of logical precision and poetic intensity.
            The second volume presents a full set of commentaries on the 154 sonnets. It demonstrates that, when the reading is based on the inherent philosophy of the Sonnets, a consistent understanding of the individual sonnets is possible. The volume also includes a detailed dismissal of the traditional emendations.
            The third volume examines the way in which all the plays and longer poems are based on the philosophy elaborated in the Sonnets. It shows the presence of the philosophy in a selection of nine poems and plays and suggests Shakespeare had arrived at the rudiments of his philosophy before he wrote the plays and that every play is based on his philosophy. It is not possible to understand the plays and poems without first understanding the philosophy presented by Shakespeare in the Sonnets of 1609.
            The fourth volume focuses on the contribution of Darwin, Wittgenstein, Duchamp and Mallarmé to the possibility of understanding Shakespeare’s philosophy. It compares the philosophy of Shake-speares Sonnets to the apologetic tradition based in the rationalisation of religious belief. It critiques the reliance of Sonnet commentary on the apologetic tradition over the last 400 years.


    These volumes would not have eventuated without the love and support of Maree Horner, who is my greatest inspiration and critic and whose partner I have been for over 30 years. The inspiration continues in my wonderful daughters, Talia, Teresa, Katie and Lucy.
            Crucial to appreciating the presence of a philosophy in the Sonnets was the reading in 1994 of the complete set with Kerry Hines, Joanna Paul, and Peter Scannell in Wanganui. These three were early contributors to the progress of the work, and Peter has continued to provide books of influence. The connection between Wanganui and Ruapehu was facilitated by Paul and Chris Hilford’s generosity in allowing me the frequent use of their Ohakune chalet as a writing retreat over the last ten years.
            I am indebted to Bryan Vickery for his many visits to discuss the work in progress and his knowledgeable TV interview. Likewise I was fortunate to meet Juliet Smith, who wrote an insightful newspaper feature. Both continue to be great friends.
            There are many other friends who I wish to mention as I recall their special contributions to the work in progress. I think of Martin CampbellBoard, Russell Christensen, Paul Cox, Fran Darragh, Richard Farrow, Rob Ferguson, Ben Gray, Alex Van Klink, Bill Lake, Maureen Leggett, Mary McLeod, Richard Montgomery, Diane and Rob Patience, Vanessa Pearson, Mike Radich, Peter Scantlebury, Pam Walker, and Russell Withers, and those I have not mentioned who have listened to part or most of the story many times.
            Two people in particular provided an opportunity to present the ideas to a select audience. My preparation for each of the seminars advanced the work considerably. I thank most warmly Professor Richard Corballis for organising a seminar in 1998 at Massey University, and Leigh Davis who generously organised a weekend seminar on his property at Whale Bay in 2001.
            A considerable number of scholars and teachers have commented on my explanations, some quite regularly over the period of the project. In their various ways Margaret Collins, Phil and Camilla Dadson, Ida Gaskin, Richard Habershon, Professor Les Holborow, Professor Mac Jackson, Professor Phillip Knight, John Paterson, Professor Michael Peters, Associate Professor Alan Webster, and Associate Professor Robert Wicks have made me aware of possibilities and difficulties.
            Similarly friends from the art world who have been willing to listen to the Duchamp connections to Shakespeare have made a significant impact on aspects of the work. I think particularly of Jim Allen, Pam Allen, Stephen Bambury, Derrick Cherrie, Andrew Drummond, Adrian Hall, John Hurrell, Robert Leonard, Richard Reddaway, Malcolm Ross, Alan Smith, and Marte Szirmay. And early on in the process Paul Smith, former Director of the British Council, NZ, lent moral support.
            A surprise one morning was to find an email from Ecke Bonk, the noted Duchamp scholar. His enthusiasm and suggestions have been invaluable. In the early stages of preparing the manuscripts for publication I benefited immensely from the willingness of Professor Richard Corballis, Professor Les Holborow, Mark Houlahan, and Associate Professor Alan Webster to act as readers of one of the four volumes. Their combined critical comments have removed many of the flaws in the manuscripts. I also wish to thank Helen Greatrex for reading an early draft of Volume 1. And I thank my copy editor Anne Austin for being only the second person to read all four volumes.
            I have been particularly fortunate to have the advice of Michael Gifkins as the project has progressed toward publication. I thank him for his sagacity and friendship.
            And I thank Shakespeare for being so patient.


    A description of the book known as Q

    Before giving a synopsis of the Sonnet philosophy, and hence an outline of the organisation of this volume, a brief description of the original 1609 edition of the Shake-speares Sonnets is required. (A facsimile of the original appears in the appendices.)
            The survey of the principal elements of Sonnets begins the process of demonstrating the involvement of Shakespeare as author in every aspect of the writing and publication of Q in 1609 (where Q stands for ‘quarto’, a page size obtained by folding a printed sheet twice). The book known as Q is the basis for demonstrating that the organisation and arrangement of the Sonnets, both in its overall logical structure and in the typographical details, expresses a singular philosophy of great coherence and consistency.
            Shakespeare organised Q so that its sonnets give expression to the principal components of his philosophy. From the title page, to the Dedication, to the set of 154 sonnets, to the final long poem, the whole book is a model universe that replicates the logical coherence of the natural world. The logic of Shakespeare’s philosophy is apparent from beginning to end. Only by viewing the book as a whole, in the light of the philosophy, do the seeming idiosyncrasies of the various elements cohere.
            Shakespeare’s attitude to Q is consistent with the presence of its philosophy throughout his other works. The logical relationship of parts evident in Q holds for the relationship of Q to all the plays and other poems. Shakespeare’s oeuvre stands apart from everything else because it is driven by a precise expression of natural logic.
            To appreciate Shakespeare’s works only one standard applies. When aspects of his oeuvre are separated out for consideration, the guiding principle is always the inherent philosophy of the Sonnets. For instance, when mystic addition is mentioned no amount of delving into Renaissance use of the procedure will reveal Shakespeare’s intent. Only the philosophy purposely presented in the Sonnets can provide the necessary level of logic.
            The elements considered here are:
                    The title page
                    The Dedication (1 page in Q)
                    154 sonnets entitled Shake-speares Sonnets, (65 pages in Q)
                    A 329 line poem entitled A Lover's Complaint. (11 pages in Q)

    The title page

    The title page (Fig 1) identifies the set of sonnets as SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS. This form of hyphenated spelling of Shakespeare’s name is maintained throughout the set at the top of every second page. It also appears in ‘WILLIAM SHAKE-SPEARE’, below the heading of A Lover’s Complaint.

    Title Page

    FIG 1: Title page from Q

            The claim ‘Never before Imprinted’ asserts that Q is the first edition of the Sonnets. There is evidence that some, if not most, of the Sonnets were written in the 1590s. The use of sonnets in the earlier plays, the paraphrasing in the plays of sonnets from Q, the inclusion of two Q sonnets in The Passionate Pilgrim of 1599, and references to a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets in late sixteenth century Elizabethan literature all point to the 1590s as the formative period for writing early versions of the sonnets before the final arrangement in Q in the years up to 1609. On the understanding presented here the earlier sonnets were revised (there are differences between the two Passionate Pilgrim sonnets and the final versions in Q) and added to in the 1600s until, in the period before publication, the last few were written to bring the number to 154. Sonnets 126, 135, 136 and 145, particularly, are later additions that refer to the philosophic numbering of the whole set.
            Among the details at the bottom of the page, the initials ‘T. T.’ and the date 1609 are worthy of note. The initials stand for Thomas Thorpe, the publisher who entered ‘a book called Shakespeare’s sonnettes’ in the Register at Stationers’ Hall on 20th May 1609. The T. T. is an important part of the encrypted meaning of the Dedication (see 5.2). The date makes the publication of the Sonnets contemporary with plays such as Cymbeline. The theatres were closed between July 1608 and December 1609 due to the plague (as they were in 1593 when Shakespeare published Venus and Adonis and wrote Lucrece). This would have provided time in which to prepare the Sonnets for publication. The date 1609 can be read as a shorthand representation of the logical relation between the Mistress and the Master Mistress as presented in sonnet 11. The relation is considered in the numerological details in 5.3.
            At the top of the page is an image from a block print featuring two curvilinear organic forms astride which are Eros figures. They rise from a truncated central figure below which emerge two grotesqueries. Nestled beneath are two rabbits. The image, and the ones above the first sonnet and at the end of A Lover’s Complaint, are typical of the time. The eroticism and the organic basis of the image are in keeping with the natural logic of the whole set and its two major sequences.

    The Dedication

    The Dedication (Fig 2) ,which has mystified every commentator since the Sonnets were published, is in a form used previously by Thomas Thorpe in publications for other poets. Commentators have filled many volumes trying to find a literal meaning for Shakespeare’s arrangement of the words, or they have speculated on an ulterior purpose for the apparent obscurity.

    Dedication from Q

    FIG 2: Dedication from Q

            This reading confirms there is no literal meaning. Instead it shows the conventional form was adapted by Shakespeare to encrypt the basic numerological and thematic structure of the whole set. The dots after every word in the text, the total number of letters in the Dedication and the presence of the two sets of initials ‘W. H.’ and ‘T. T.’, are deliberate devices inserted by Shakespeare. As a consequence, the Dedication incorporates the most significant numbers of the set: 154, 28, 126, 145, 1, and 9. The initials ‘W. H.’, for instance, are a cryptic reference to a fundamental numbering in the logic of the Sonnets based on the numbers 1 and 9, representing the understanding of the Poet. (For a full account see 5.3.)

    The Sonnets

    Following the title page and the Dedication there are 65 pages devoted to the complete set of 154 sonnets. ‘SHAKE-SPEARES, SONNETS’appears over the head of the first sonnet, which is unnumbered, with the remaining sonnets being numbered from 2 to 154. On most pages (but not all) the last sonnet straddles two pages creating a sense of continuity throughout the set. This is a deliberate arrangement allowing Shakespeare to incorporate a structure for time within the Sonnets (see 1.26).
            Every sonnet in the set has 14 lines except for sonnet 99 with 15 lines and sonnet 126 with 12 lines. All the sonnets are in pentameters with alternate rhyming quatrains and a rhyming couplet (ababcdcdefefgg) except for sonnet 126 which is in couplets throughout, and sonnet 145 which is in octosyllables. All the variations are deliberate and have a role in the presentation of the Sonnet logic.
            The complete set of Sonnets, numbering 154, represents nature as the prime entity in Shakespeare’s philosophy. The whole set is then divided into two major sequences. The first 126 sonnets are written to a youth, the Master Mistress, and the remaining 28 sonnets to a woman, the Mistress. The three elements, nature, the Master Mistress, and the Mistress, form the basic logical unit of the set. The deliberate arrangement of the whole set with its two sequences is the key to appreciating the philosophic dynamic or natural logic of the Sonnets.
            Within the 126 sonnets to the Master Mistress there are three groupings. The first 14 sonnets argue for the significance of ‘increase’, or the basic requirement for human persistence. Sonnet 14 states the logical relation of increase to the dynamic of truth and beauty or the process of understanding. There is then an interlude of 5 poetry and increase sonnets (15 to 19) that establish the relation between the increase argument and poetry. The remaining sonnets (20 to 126) consider the truth and beauty dynamic with regard to the youth.
            The 28 Mistress sonnets (127 to 154) contain the definitive presentation of the beauty and truth dynamic. Beauty as seeing (127 to 137) and then truth as saying (137 to 152), are given logical formulation in the Mistress sequence because the Mistress is prior to the Master Mistress (see 1.16). The last two sonnets (153 and 154) are in the mode of classic epigrams. Numerologically they recapitulate the Mistress sequence and provide a final flourish for the whole set. The allegorical nature of the flourish prepares the way for A Lover’s Complaint.
            Shakespeare introduces his mythic level of understanding into the set in the guise of the Poet. The Poet is initially encountered in the first person in sonnet 10 as ‘I’, ‘my’ and ‘me’, and is called the Poet for the first time in sonnet 17. Sonnet 145 is also structurally placed to identify the Poet. Shakespeare contrasts the Poet’s natural logic with an immature rival poet who is only capable of expressing the adolescent understanding of the Master Mistress or youth. The rival poet’s inadequacies are addressed in the group of 9 sonnets at the mid-point of the set (78 to 86).

    The K and A

    Under sonnet 154 are the letters K and A (Fig 3). The K is the printer’s collation mark for the page and the A is the first letter from the title A Lover’s Complaint on the following page. The feature has a cryptic significance that uses the words ‘WILLIAM SHAKE-SPEARE’ from under the title of A Lover’s Complaint. When enlarged the name fits exactly over the K and A (see 5.3).

    The last page of Sonnets

    FIG 3: The last page of Sonnets from Q

    A Lover's Complaint

    A Lover’s Complaint (Fig 4) is a long poem complementary to the Sonnet sequence. It presents in allegorical form the germ of the philosophy fully articulated in the Sonnets. Its numerological structure is appropriately simpler. Of note is the change from A Lover’s to The Lovers on the last page (see 5.8).

    A Lover's Complaint

    FIG 4: A Lover's Complaint, heading from Q

    The layout in Q

    In Q, the 154 sonnets in the complete set flow from page to page to enhance the sense of continuity (Fig 5). Sonnets begun at the bottom of a page continue on the following page in a way that corresponds to the curvilinear shape in the block print of the title page.

    sonnets 8 to 12

    FIG 5: Sonnets 8 to 12 from Q

            The arrangement has a pattern. After the first 9 sonnets, sonnet 10 begins at the top of the page. From then on every twelfth sonnet appears at the top of a page. Sonnet 154 has a page to itself. Therefore there are 9 sonnets followed by 144 sonnets and then number 154.
            The arrangement introduces a temporal pattern (Diag 1) into the sequence (see 1.26).

    layout diagram

    DIAG 1: Temporal pattern based on 12

            An important distinction is also made between the first 9 sonnets and the following 145 (see 1.25 and 3.8).

    9 + 145 = 154

            The pattern provides a reason for the paired brackets under sonnet 126 in the original (Fig 6). The brackets maintain the spacing to allow sonnet 130 to top a page in keeping with the pattern of 12s. The brackets also play a part in the suggestive form of the whole set (see 5.7)

    Brackets after sonnet 126

    FIG 6: Brackets after sonnet 126

    The possibility of a philosophy in Shake-speares Sonnets

    Whether or not Shake-speares Sonnets contain a philosophy has long been debated. The frequently expressed sense of mystery or perplexity toward the whole set has led to the belief they are fundamentally incoherent or so personal as to defy interpretation. The purpose of this volume is to demonstrate that Shakespeare did have a unique philosophy and that he deliberately organised his Sonnets to give it expression.
            Despite many attempts over the years to discover a philosophy in the Sonnets the understanding of their meaning has progressed no further than the commonplace that they contain no inherent philosophy. Wordsworth, Hazlitt, and Eliot, for instance, held that they contain no philosophy or, as Eliot expressed it, only a ‘rag-bag philosophy’. Others such as Coleridge, Croce, and Strachey regarded them as deeply philosophical but have acknowledged their inability to comprehend, much less articulate, the philosophy.
            Ted Hughes in Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being did attempt to account for the ‘mythical’ depth of the Sonnets by deriving a ‘tragic equation’ from the early poems as a generating principle for some of the later plays. His attempt, though, was fatally restricted by his Neo-Platonist sympathies. His preference for the mythological elements over the ‘realism’ in the poems and plays made it impossible for him to move past the traditional misconceptions of the Sonnets.
            The evidence presented in this volume shows that the dependency of most commentators on the traditional Judeo/Christian paradigm leads to their inadequacy when confronted with the works of Shakespeare. This volume presents an appreciation of the Sonnets that moves beyond the inadequacies. It demonstrates that Shakespeare had a systematic philosophy and that he used the sonnet form to give it comprehensive and consistent expression. It shows how the Sonnets articulate the logical principles for expression at a mythic depth. The logical criteria presented in the Sonnets provide the philosophic basis for the mythic achievement of his plays and other poems.
            The volume demonstrates that the Sonnets as published in the original edition of 1609 are a consistent and coherent philosophic statement requiring none of the subsequent reordering, omissions, or emendations. It acknowledges Shakespeare’s role in organising them into an exact system to represent his thought. The conformity of the logic of the philosophy with the structure and numbering in the original will become evident as the various aspects of the Sonnets are considered.

    The logical arrangement of the Sonnets

    The four volumes contend that the whole set of Sonnets, indeed nearly every aspect of Q, was configured by Shakespeare to present his philosophy. Once he laid out the individual sonnets to articulate the logical components of the philosophy and numbered the set appropriately, he organised the incidental components of the publication to conform to significant numerological relationships in the Sonnet logic. He then added A Lover’s Complaint to counterpoint the precision of the Sonnet structure.
            Of immediate concern in this introduction is the logical arrangement of the whole set with its precisely arranged internal sequences. Nature as the whole set of Sonnets, the division of the set into two sequences representing the female and male possibilities, the increase argument of the first 14 sonnets and the truth and beauty dynamic of the rest of the sonnets provide the key elements in Shakespeare’s philosophy. Because this volume is based on the philosophy of the Sonnets, this introduction to the logical arrangement of the Sonnets doubles as a synopsis of the organisation of the material in the volume. The ways in which the various aspects of Q are, even playfully, incorporated into the expression of the philosophy will become apparent as the Sonnets are considered in greater detail throughout the five Parts of the volume.
            While reading this introduction to the Sonnet logic it should be remembered that the Sonnets were written by a philosopher/poet who was able to incorporate his philosophy seamlessly into the poetic form of the sonnet. When the logic of the Sonnets is abstracted to demonstrate its consistency and comprehensiveness, it is done with the understanding that the poetic form of the sonnet is the most appropriate vehicle for the philosophy and that every aspect of the abstracted logic is readily evident in the philosophic structuring of the Sonnets as presented in Q in 1609.
            The evidence and arguments that identify and describe the function of the logical components associated with nature, increase, and truth and beauty respectively are presented in Parts 1 to 3. At the end of each Part the logical relationships are represented as a diagram or template. The individual templates are then combined at the end of Part 3 in the Nature template to provide a graphic image of the underlying logic of Shakespeare’s philosophy.
            Because of the consistency of the logic, the Nature template represents the underlying conditions for every possibility in the world and so for the logical relation between the world and the human mind. In Wittgenstein’s phrase, Shakespeare’s logic exhibits the correct ‘logical multiplicity’ between the mind and the world. Whereas Wittgenstein failed to articulate the conditions for such a logic, and in his later period gave away the idea of doing so, Shakespeare had articulated the conditions in his Sonnets over 300 years earlier. (As argued throughout these four volumes, traditional contradictions or inconsistencies, as evident in the application of biblical mythology to life, can be shown to be the result of distortions or corruptions of the complete template.)

    Nature and the sexual dynamic

    Shakespeare’s decision to have 154 sonnets in the complete set was deliberate as it set up the basis for a logical unit of meaning. The logical unit is made up of the whole set of 154 sonnets, representing nature, plus the two part division of the set into the female sequence of 28 sonnets and the male sequence of 126 sonnets. The evidence for the significance of the whole set and its sub-sequences will be considered in Part 1. What cannot be overlooked is the presence in the arrangement of the Sonnets of the sexual division in nature into the female and male possibilities.
            Diagram 2 represents the dynamic.

    Nature female/male Template

    DIAG 2: Nature female/male template

            Or in the terminology of the Sonnets (Diag 3).

    layout diagram

    DIAG 3: Nature female/male template (Sonnets)

            The logical unit of nature/female/male is immediately evident as the first order of structure in the Sonnets. The relation of the whole set and its sub-sequences forms the primary template from which the remainder of the philosophy is derived.
            The logical unit, presented in the form of a diagram throughout this volume, is the elementary form of the natural logic dynamic. The elementary form is abstracted from the natural interrelationship between the multiplicity of elements in nature all the way from the sexual dynamic to the dynamic of truth and beauty. It is the logical unit behind the genealogical tree of descent or any other branching structure with continuities and cul-de-sacs.
            The diagrams or templates used in this volume to reveal the logic of Shakespeare’s philosophy implicitly have the multiplicity of form inherent in the logical unit. With nature taken as the basis of all possibilities, each template represents a dynamic of branching possibilities. The possibilities of interrelationship can be represented by extensions of the basic template. Once the possibility of female and male is present in nature, the male needs to return to the female to increase and the female then gives birth to female and male to continue the dynamic. The line of continuity has been sustained across generations as all existing sexual beings have an unbroken lineage back to the original conditions for sexual division (Diag 4). (The possibility of a generation increasing or not increasing is at the heart of natural logic).

    Nature Multiplicity

    DIAG 4: Multiplicity in Nature

            Because of the consistency of natural logic, the same extensions to the template for the sexual dynamic out of nature can represent a possible series of interconnections in the dynamic of truth and beauty (Diag 5).

    Mind Multiplicity

    DIAG 5: Multiplicity in the mind

            Once the implications of the logical unit of nature/female/male are appreciated then all representations of the logical unit can be read as representing natural multiplicity.


    The first 14 sonnets of the set provide the next component of the Nature template. The increase sonnets (1 to 14), which occur at the beginning of the sequence to the male, follow logically upon the primary template. The increase argument of the first 14 sonnets establishes the logical requirement for the reunification of the male with the female in the conception and birth of a child. This recombination of male with female for human nature logically mirrors the dynamic of sexual division in nature. The evidence for the increase argument is considered in Part 2.
            When represented as a diagram (Diag 6) it can be seen that the increase dynamic has the same form as the Nature female/male template.

    Increase Template

    DIAG 6: Increase template

            In the terminology of the Sonnets (Diag 7).

    Increase Template Sonnets

    DIAG 7: Increase template (Sonnets)

            The Nature female/male template and the Increase template can then be combined to express the logical conditions for existence of human kind as a physical or bodily being (Diag 8).

    Body Template

    DIAG 8: Body template

            The structure of the whole set and sub-sequences plus the argument of the first 14 sonnets is devoted to establishing the logical conditions for bodily existence prior to the possibility of having a mind. Together they provide the given on which the logic of the rest of the sonnets devoted to truth and beauty (the remaining 140 sonnets) is based.
            So logically, the structure of the whole set and its two sequences is prior to the increase dynamic. Similarly, the increase dynamic is prior to or provides the logical basis for the remaining 140 sonnets whose principal theme is truth and beauty.

    Truth and Beauty

    Because logically the female is prior to the male, the definitive presentation of the relation between beauty and truth occurs in the Mistress sequence. The Mistress sonnets characterise beauty archetypically as seeing (127 to 137) and truth archetypically as saying (137 to 152). Diagrammatically, the relationship of truth and beauty is isomorphic with the logical unit out of nature (Diag 9).

    Beauty and Truth Template

    DIAG 9: Beauty and truth template

            The template represents the logical relation between beauty (sensations) and truth (ideas) as expressed in sonnet 137 where what is sensed as best or worst becomes articulated through saying as true or false. The Mistress sonnets from 127 to 152 are devoted to exploring the logical distinction between ‘seeing’ and ‘saying’. Then the intensely erotic final two sonnets of the Mistress sequence (153, 154) prepare for the return to the beginning of the set with its increase argument.
            Because the increase sonnets in the Master Mistress sequence relate to physical or sensory processes only beauty is mentioned in the sonnets before sonnet 14. Then, in sonnet 14, the dynamic of truth and beauty is introduced in the final few lines in preparation for the role of truth and beauty as the logical basis for the remaining sonnets to the Master Mistress (Diag 10).

    Truth and Beauty Template

    DIAG 10: Truth and beauty template

            The Master Mistress sequence from sonnet 15 to 126 considers the consequences of the logic of truth and beauty for the male. The arguments of the sequence provide logical remedies for illogical appreciations of the truth and beauty dynamic consequent upon the desire to excessively idealise truth and beauty. The significance of the truth and beauty dynamic as the logical basis for the sequence is evident in the 7 occasions the words truth and beauty appear together in a sonnet from sonnet 17 to 101. The evidence for the truth and beauty dynamic in the Mistress and Master Mistress sequences is considered in Part 3.
            The tendency to say truth and beauty rather than beauty and truth in the Master Mistress sequence is symptomatic of the difference between Master Mistress and the Mistress sequences. Truth precedes beauty in the Master Mistress sonnets because the principal focus, after the increase sonnets, is on the relation between the use of words as language in saying and sensations that arise in the mind from the use of those words. The dynamic of truth and beauty represents the relation between words and sensations formed in the mind. The sequence explores the consequence of the relation between ideas and sensations when ideas are reduced to sensations in the mind. Such sensations of the mind account for the sense of the ideal commonly associated with the experience of God as a superhuman potentiality. The sequence to the male, then, is the appropriate forum for critiquing the idea of the ideal or God.
            By first taking the logical implications of sexual differentiation in nature as a given, Shakespeare is able to articulate the necessary conditions for the persistence of human nature. He is then able to demonstrate the implications of those preconditions for logical functioning of the human mind. As a consequence of its logical dependence on sexual persistence in nature, he characterises the human mind as erotic or consequent upon the sexual possibility. The templates for beauty and truth and truth and beauty can be combined to give a diagram for the logical function of the mind (Diag 11).

    Mind Template

    DIAG 11: Mind Template

            The simple and effective system structured into the whole set allows Shakespeare to characterise the logical relation between nature as a whole and human nature as a part of nature.

    The Nature template

    It should be evident from the templates for the body and the mind that there is an isomorphism between the two aspects of human being. This must be logically the case if the human mind is an aspect of nature. The isomorphism confirms that the correct logical multiplicity exists in Shake-speares Sonnets for the relation of the body and the mind. The combination of the templates for nature and the sexual dynamic, increase, and truth and beauty represent the complete dynamic of the relation of nature and human nature as body and mind (Diag 12).

    Nature Template

    DIAG 12: Nature template

            In the terminology of the Sonnets (Diag 13).

    Nature Template Sonnets

    DIAG 13: Nature template (Sonnets)

            The position of truth and beauty as a logical element in the overall structure of the Sonnet logic gives the dynamic of understanding a precise definition lacking in the treatment of ideas and sensations in traditional philosophy. Because of the logical consistency of their derivation from nature, Shakespeare is able to use the terms truth and beauty to characterise correctly the natural logic of ideas and sensations. The precise presentation of the truth and beauty dynamic also allows for a clarification of the meaning of the traditional philosophical concepts, ethics and aesthetics (see 3.119).

    The Poet

    The Poet of the Sonnets is the one who comprehends the logic of the dynamic characterised by the Nature template. The Poet understands the logical priorities inherent in the relationship between nature and the sexual possibility, between the sexual possibility and increase, and between increase and truth and beauty. The Poet appreciates that the sexual is prior to the erotic and that the fundamental distinction between the sexual and the erotic resides in the capacity of the sexual to produce a child and the incapacity of the erotic to produce a child without recourse to the sexual.
            As a consequence any form of expression from the human mind is erotic and most typically any form of mythical expression acknowledges its inherent eroticism by having its entities reproduced by non-sexual means. The biblical myth is a typical instance of a myth whose blatant eroticism (in the non-sexual formation of Adam and Eve in Genesis and in the non-sexual conception and birth of Christ in the Gospels) logically acknowledges its secondary status to the sexual dynamic in nature.
            The logical consistency of the Sonnet structure, established by the Poet, provides the basis for a consideration of the mythic level of expression in a culture. Shakespeare addresses the philosophic status of the mythic through the role of the Poet in the Sonnets. In this he differs from all other philosophers who do not account for the function of myth, nor give it direct expression, in their work. Shakespeare shows in the Sonnets (and in his plays and poems) that the effective expression by a Poet of the relation between the sexual and the erotic constitutes the mythic, or the logic of mythology. Because this understanding is conditional on the priority of the body as the sexual and the consequent status of the mind as erotic as laid down in the Sonnets, the Sonnets themselves are a consistent expression of the basic criteria for the mythic.
            The Poet introduces himself into the Sonnets in the first person in sonnet 10 only after he has stated the logical condition for the possibility of love in sonnet 9. All forms of love, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or the love of Gods, have their logical basis in the possibility of increase out of nature. The Poet then devotes 5 sonnets immediately after the increase sonnets, at the beginning of the truth and beauty dynamic (sonnets 15 to 19), to stating the logical distinction between the sexual and the erotic. They establish the priority of the sexual over any form of expression and recognise the complete dependency of any form of expression on the sexual dynamic.

    Nature Template Sonnet Numbers

    DIAG 14: Nature template (Sonnet numbers)

            In the diagram of the Nature template (Diag 14) the sign for ‘is prior to’ symbolises the logical function of the poetry and increase sonnets. Without the proviso of the poetry and increase sonnets the Sonnet logic would not provide a consistent basis for understanding and expression. Each section of the Nature template can be identified with a particular grouping of sonnets.
            It will become apparent that the Sonnets not only articulate the logical relationship between nature and human nature but also give expression to the relationship by presenting the philosophy in poetic form. The appreciation of the relation generates a set of sonnets that are inherently logical and simultaneously mythic. The Sonnets are a testament to the logical conditions for a complete expression of Shakespeare’s philosophy at a mythic level.
            The way a particular culture expresses its mythology indicates its attitude to the logical relation between the erotic and the sexual, and a particular culture can only be superseded when its mythology is reformulated to meet the needs of the changed circumstances. The Western World still tacitly adheres to biblical mythology because no one has yet appreciated Shakespeare’s consistent reformulation of the mythic conditions for the modern period.
            The Sonnets are renowned for their unparalleled treatment of love, immortality, the idea of God, time, music, and many other areas of human experience, in all their various possibilities. Once Shakespeare organised the Sonnets according to the requirements of natural logic he could then incorporate or discuss any aspect of human existence with complete consistency. Shakespeare is able to do this with feeling and constancy because he adheres to the natural logic of humankind in its experience in the world. How the natural logic of the Sonnets characterises the various areas of experience will emerge in the following pages.

    The influence of Darwin, Wittgenstein, and Duchamp

    The substantive evidence and argument presented in this volume for the philosophy of the Sonnets reflects the soundness of the insights derived from the works of Darwin, Wittgenstein, Mallarmé and Duchamp. In particular, the philosophic attitude common to Darwin, Wittgenstein, Mallarmé and Duchamp (considered in Volume 4) was critical to the development of the insights. Though they were expert in different disciplines, they had a common desire to see the world without prejudice.
            Because Shakespeare had the same philosophic expectation, the combined contributions of Darwin, Duchamp, and Wittgenstein have enabled an appreciation of the comprehensiveness of Shakespeare's philosophy. The continuing revelations since 1995 of the detailed workings of the Sonnets are a consequence of the persistent application of the same philosophic attitude.
            Charles Darwin, the scientist whose arguments and evidence confirmed the significance of the evolutionary process, became a point of reference because he used philosophy to establish a consistent case rather than to justify an illogical point of view. His works have the integrity only possible to a mind without significant prejudice. It is not surprising, then, that the three parts of The Descent of Man have the same logical organisation as the Sonnets.
            Ludwig Wittgenstein’s willingness to challenge the presumptions of his early work, the Tractatus, by reinventing his philosophy in the Philosophical Investigations, showed a desire to formulate a consistent philosophy of language. The critical change was from a precise model of logic based on atomic and molecular physics to one more closely related to the natural conditions for human life. The emphasis on ‘family resemblances’, the ‘natural history of man’, and ‘forms of life’ in his later works is indicative of the change toward a more natural logic. The Sonnets bring Wittgenstein’s two distinct phases together by systematically combining a precise structure based on the natural logic of life with a consistent articulation of the conditions for human understanding.
            Marcel Duchamp’s lifelong consistency in making seminal artworks was based on an appreciation of art at the mythic level. His major works, the Large Glass, the Etant donnes and the associated readymades, were based on an understanding of the logic of aesthetics consistent with Shakespeare’s. At the mythic level, the Large Glass has the same logical structure as the Sonnets. Significantly, Duchamp acknowledged the influence of the French poet Stephane Mallarmé. Mallarmé’s deep symbolism, evident throughout his writing, used some of the principles of the Shakespearean sonnet. The ‘grand oeuvre’, or the definitive work Mallarmé hoped to write, was anticipated 300 years earlier by Shake-speares Sonnets.
            The work of Darwin, Wittgenstein, Mallarmé and Duchamp provided the bridging point for the appreciation of Shake-speares Sonnets presented in this volume. After 6 years of research into the logic of the Sonnets the original dependence on the contributions of Darwin, Wittgenstein, Mallarmé and Duchamp to articulate the logic was reduced to a minimum. The Sonnet philosophy is expressed here with the concepts used by Shakespeare throughout his works. Consequently, the Sonnet philosophy can now be used to provide a critique of the work of Darwin, Wittgenstein, Mallarmé and Duchamp. The division of the book into four volumes has enabled the work of the four contributors to be considered separately in the fourth volume.

    The significance of Shakespeare's philosophy

    To get a measure of the achievement of the Sonnets it is instructive to compare the contribution of Shakespeare’s natural philosophy with the systematic advances associated with Galileo and Darwin. Galileo overthrew the biblical/Ptolemaic picture of the heavens by demonstrating the natural logic of the planetary system, and Darwin grounded the biblical/Christian misrepresentation of life on earth in the natural processes of the planet. While Galileo corrected the view of the universe and Darwin corrected the view of organic life on the planet to conform with natural logic, no one has yet been credited with systematically presenting the natural logic of the workings of the human mind.
            The achievement of the Sonnets suggests Shakespeare is the first thinker to articulate systematically the natural logic of the human mind. His philosophy completes and logically encapsulates the progress made by Galileo and Darwin. However, no scholar in Shakespearean studies, or other fields of endeavour such as philosophy and science, has yet explained or even noted Shakespeare’s achievement except in the vaguest of terms when they call him a universal genius or the centre of the Western Canon (Harold Bloom).
            In general terms the modern world is still in the grip of the influence of the orthodox Judeo/Christian paradigm. This is despite the advances made by Galileo and Darwin. The way of seeing the world has changed, but the way of thinking about it in depth has not been challenged systematically. Shakespeare’s philosophy is the first to provide just such a systematic challenge with the presentation in the Sonnets of the natural logic of human understanding. He completes the process begun by Galileo and seconded by Darwin. The irony is that he expressed his understanding 250 years before Darwin published his Origin of Species, and around the same time that Galileo published some of his findings. Yet no one has comprehended the implications of his contribution, much less demonstrated how he articulated his philosophy in the Sonnets as the basis for the plays and poems.
            It has been easier for orthodoxy to appreciate and assimilate the advance made by a thinker if the contribution is associated with a technical innovation. Galileo and then Darwin and then Shakespeare are associated in lessening degrees with specific aids to discovery. Galileo would not have confirmed the heliocentricity of the solar system without turning the telescope to the heavens. Darwin would not have demonstrated human descent from the apes through an evolutionary process of inestimable duration without the evidence gathered during his circumnavigation of the globe. But only in very general terms can it be said that Shakespeare benefited from the Gutenberg revolution, or other features of the Renaissance such as the vogue for sonnets. Technical advances simply cannot account for Shakespeare’s precise presentation of the natural logic of humankind in the Sonnets.
            As a corollary, because the astronomical revolution of Galileo had few implications for the workings of the mind, orthodoxy has found it easier to accommodate. Although it has been less easy for orthodoxy to accept the full implications of the Darwinian revolution, especially the idea that minds evolve from the potentialities of previous species, generally its basic tenets were not under threat from his mainly empirical arguments. Christian apologetics has assimilated the challenges by accommodating the new sciences into its mythology.
            But Shakespeare’s natural logic completely undermines the edifice of apologetics or the philosophical justification of idealistic dogma. Because the Sonnets issue such an uncompromising challenge to orthodox prejudices about the body/mind relationship, no one in the world has yet seen past the orthodox view to appreciate the philosophy of Shakespeare. Humankind has adjusted to Galileo and Darwin but has not yet squared up to the advance prepared for by the Sonnets.
            The mythology that developed while the biblical/Platonic model for the structure of universe and life on earth prevailed has not been questioned systematically. When Kant, for instance, claimed to be bringing about a Copernican revolution in philosophy he simply adjusted Christian ideology to the new discoveries without challenging the underlying mythology that was the basis for the old misconceptions. In the Critique of Practical Reason he revealed his apologist agenda when he reintroduced the ideas of God and immortality dismissed in the Critique of Pure Reason. Traditional mythological misconceptions have prevailed to the present day without a comprehensive logical challenge. (See the essay on Riane Eisler in Volume 4.)
            The rise in scepticism over the last few hundred years is another symptom of the inability to appreciate the natural logic given expression in the Sonnets. Scepticism has burgeoned, since the Enlightenment, as a response to the critiques of biblical dogmas by Hume, Kant, etc. There was good reason, it seemed, to be sceptical about the possibility of a definitive understanding of the logic of life if the Judeo/Christian attempt could get it so wrong.
            On the evidence presented here, Shakespeare wrote a philosophic tract in the Sonnets of 1609 that critiques the contradictions of traditional mythology by identifying the logical basis of the mythic and so avoids the abyss of scepticism. But a combination of the apologetics typical of Kant and scepticism typical of Hume has ensured the Sonnets have remained buried in psychological speculation for 400 years. The Shakespeare who emerges from this appreciation of the Sonnets and plays and poems is not an apologist or a sceptic, however, but a philosopher who writes mythic poetry and plays based in the natural logic of life. He is, even if it sounds somewhat oxymoronic, a believer in life.
            In the Sonnets, the primacy of nature, the priority of the female over the male, the priority of increase over the possibility of mind (and hence the idea of God), are basic tenets of Shakespeare’s natural logic that correct the illogical rationalisations of apologetics. The Sonnets are exceptional in that they present the natural logic of the world in consistent argument and demonstrate the consistency by presenting the argument in peerless poetry.
            But Shakespeare goes further. He articulates the logical conditions for the mythic. In 38 plays he demonstrates how to apply the philosophic insights based in natural logic of the Sonnets to create literature at a mythic level of expression. As a consequence his consistent approach provides a critique of the illogical understanding of mythology typified by the heterogeneous writings of the Bible and other mythologies whose male-based dogmas seem driven by the psychology of socio-political prerogatives.
            The natural logic of Shakespeare’s Sonnets provides the basis for the constitution of a society free of the worst vagaries and prejudices of religious belief. For instance, the American Constitution, ironically under the influence of a partial reading of Shakespeare by the founding fathers, goes some way toward remedying the inappropriateness of systems of mythological belief as the basis for a socio-political order.
            But American society is typical of cultures that are bedeviled in part by the comic relationship between attributing natural disasters to ‘Mother Nature’ and calling the fortuitous survival of individuals a miracle achieved through faith in a male God. The continued public avowals of a faith in a male God in such cultures creates countermanding personal and public values and practices that reveal the disjunctions that occur when a male God is given priority over nature.
            The consistency of Shakespeare’s natural philosophy toward both truth and beauty provides a means to immediately assess retrograde beliefs that are contrary to natural justice and morals. Just as Galileo’s astronomy outmoded the retrograde configurations of Ptolemaic astrology, and Darwin’s empirical findings revealed the hubris in enforcing biblical mythology as fact, Shakespeare’s Sonnet logic establishes the basis for consistent mythic expression.
            Traditional misinterpretation of Shakespeare’s works, typified by commentators such as Harold Bloom in his The Invention of the Human, is a logical consequence of the contradiction in values inherent in the orthodox beliefs. By contrast, it is only necessary to read a play such as Coriolanus in the light of the Sonnet philosophy to get a sense of its conformity to the principles of natural logic. But Bloom dismisses Martius Caius Coriolanus as a cardboard character and Volumnia, his mother, as one of the more unpleasant hags in Shakespeare.
            Bloom reveals his personal preference when uses the psychology of Falstaff and Hamlet as a literary standard to critique the plays throughout his commentaries. Without an insight into Shakespeare’s philosophy Bloom presents a litany of opinions based on little more than personal taste. When Bloom’s pre-eminence as a literary scholar is considered, the disjunction provides a measure of the light distance Shakespeare is ahead of his interpreters. Needless to say, the characteristics criticised by Bloom find their correct value and purpose in the Sonnet philosophy, of which he demonstrates his complete ignorance.
            The universal appeal of Shakespeare’s poems and plays is consistent with a Sonnet philosophy that articulates the natural logic of life. The natural logic of the Sonnets avoids the apologetic philosophy typical of the last few millennia. Even contemporary commentary has failed to discover the inherent philosophy of the Sonnets, plays and other poems. Consistent with the ease of characterisation in the plays, the possibility of understanding the philosophy is inherent in every person. This volume is organised according to the logic of the Sonnets to allow the reader to gauge the truth and beauty of such claims.

    Other introductory matters

    The function of the numerology

    It was common in the Renaissance for poetic sets to be organised numerologically. Dante’s Divine Comedy had 100 cantos that added by mystic addition to unity (100 = 1+0+0 = 1). Of the sonneteers of Shakespeare’s day, Phillip Sidney, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Edmund Spenser, all tried their hand at numbered systems. Shakespeare elevated the convention to a philosophic level by numbering his Sonnets so they conformed to the basic elements of his logic. He also numerologically encrypted the Dedication and other features.
            The ability of this reading to unravel the numerological mysteries of the Sonnets is a consequence of the precision of the philosophic insights brought to bear on their logical structure. The revelations of the numerology serve to confirm the correctness of the reading.
            As well as providing a key to the structural elements of the philosophy, the numerology is evident in many of the details. Only those details relevant to the ongoing argument are presented in the body of the text. Other numerological details, added by Shakespeare as encrypted affirmations of his intent, are given in Part 5.
            Because Shake-speares Sonnets has a numerological system coherent with its logic, some numbers such as 1, 2, 9, 14, appear throughout the text as numerals rather than words to indicate their numerological function.

    The process of mystic addition

    To appreciate the thematic and structural organisation of the Sonnets it is necessary to be familiar with mystic addition. This numerological system is used widely in astrological determinations and was used frequently in the literature of Shakespeare’s day and before to give order to a sequence of poems. Shakespeare takes the method and gives it a purely philosophic function to enumerate the logical components of his system. Before Shakespeare, the most notable use was in Dante’s Divine Comedy (1321). Its 100 cantos add by this method to a ‘divine unity’.

    100 = 1+0+0 = 1

            Similarly, the various parts and relationships within the whole add to significant numbers. Beatrice, Dante’s ready-made goddess, is associated with the number 63.

    63 = 6+3 = 9

            The number 9 indicated that she was seated one place short of the divine.

    9+1 = 10 = 1+0 = 1

            Of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Sidney wrote numerologically structured sequences of poems or sonnets. Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, published in 1591, has a simple linear numerological arrangement based on the 108 suitors to Penelope with 11 songs interspersed. Shakespeare could have used this as a model to develop the precise and profound linear structure of his Sonnets. Similarly, the elementary numerology of A Lover’s Complaint could derive from Spenser’s simple schemes based on such themes as the 365 days of the year (see 5.8).

    The facsimile of Q and the modern English versions

    The modern English versions of individual sonnets that accompany the text are reproduced on the understanding that they have their full meaning within the logical structure of Q. A facsimile of the complete text of Q is provided in the appendices.
            The modern English versions are provided to assist those unfamiliar with the original typography and spelling. They do not purport to improve or emend the original. Because Q was configured personally by Shakespeare to express his philosophy, this volume rejects the 50 to 100 traditional emendations dating from the time of Malone (1790), as they are only needed for a reading based on the inappropriate traditional paradigm.
            Only a handful of patently obvious typesetting errors and spelling mistakes are made in the modern English version. Letters such as ‘i’ and ‘j’ and ‘u’ and ‘v’ are changed to reflect modern usage. As the word ‘then’ had both temporal and comparative meanings in Q, and there being no ‘than’ in sixteenth century English, the comparative ‘then’ has been changed to ‘than’.
            While most of the Elizabethan spelling is modernised, in some cases where the original spelling seems to be suggestive, as in the spelling of ‘eye’ as ‘eie’, it is carried over into the modern English version. In all cases Q remains authoritative. The punctuation in Q is retained throughout (except where a comma has been used as a period at some line endings) as many of the traditionally accepted alterations within the lines dramatically alter the meaning of the affected sonnets (see sonnets 17.14 and 84.2). The brackets used for parenthesis in Q are retained.

    The naming of Nature and nature

    The principal logical entities of the Sonnets are nature (characterised as the sovereign mistress), the Mistress, the Master Mistress (or youth), and the Poet. In the Sonnets the words Mistress, Master Mistress, and Poet have their first letter capitalised throughout (except in sonnet 153 where the Mistress is in lower case). Other proper names are capitalised, such as Adonis and Helen and the three occurrences of the word ‘God’ in its various guises.
            Shakespeare’s use of capitals for proper names in Q is adhered to in the 4 volumes. The exception is Nature. Nature appears throughout the Sonnets in both lower and upper case. This is because Nature is not logically a proper name. When Nature is referred to as the ‘sovereign mistress’ in sonnet 126 she is in the lower case because Nature in the Sonnets is not a mythological God or Goddess but rather the a priori logical entity. While it is possible to talk of a God, or the God of the Bible, there is no logical state of a Nature/ nature or the Nature/nature. In most instances Shakespeare’s choice of case is intentional, as in sonnets 67/68 where human nature and Nature at large are distinguished. The variations are maintained in quotations from the works of Shakespeare and direct reference to those works.
            In Q, Shakespeare uses the capital ‘N’ for Nature when he emphasises the priority of ‘Nature’ over all else, as in sonnets 68, 126 and 127. Otherwise he uses the lower case ‘n’ for nature at large (9 further sonnets), and when he refers to human ‘nature’, as in sonnets 67, 109 and 111. The usage in Q is maintained in quotations from the sonnets and in direct references to them. Most of the references to ‘nature’ in these volumes are to the priority of singular nature over all else, with the distinction between the use of the word ‘nature’ as the logical entity representing all possibilities and its use to refer to an aspect of ‘nature’ usually identifiable by usages such as ‘my nature’.
            The priority of Nature over human nature is such that humankind needs to ensure conditions are favourable for its survival as a distinct species. Both planetary catastrophes and human inventions such as the eschatological desire or nuclear devices could threaten human survival. While little could be done to avert the former everything can be done to avoid the latter. To characterise the desire to overcome such threats these volumes refer not to human continuity as if it can be presumed upon, but to human persistence or the desire to persist beyond the present generation as a distinct part of Nature.

    The philosophy of the Sonnets and the Sonnet philosophy

    Throughout the four volumes Shake-speares Sonnets are referred to as the ‘Sonnets’ as in ‘the philosophy of the Sonnets’, or as in the ‘logic of the Sonnets’. Rather than use the unwieldy possessive ‘the Sonnets’ philosophy’ the phrase has been abbreviated to ‘the Sonnet philosophy’. Although the contraction could have been made to ‘the philosophy of Q’, the references to Q have been reserved for the facts of publication of general features of the 1609 edition. Because Shakespeare purposefully wrote his philosophy in sonnet form or, in the verbal form of ‘sonnet’ did sonnet his philosophy, the phrase ‘Sonnet philosophy’ or ‘Sonnet logic’ captures something of his intent.
            In these volumes ‘philosophic’ refers to an approach to philosophy typified by Ludwig Wittgenstein and exemplified by Shakespeare that sets out the logical conditions for human understanding within nature. ‘Philosophical’ on the other hand refers to the use of logical procedures to rationalise a preexisting set of beliefs as in apologetics, or to separate psychological attitudes from their relation to nature. See also the distinction between ‘mythic’, ‘mythical’, and ‘mythological’ in the Glossary.

    The use of the Glossary

    A difficulty for both the expert and the novice when reading this volume will be the meanings of words with logical implications or unfamiliar usage. The experts, particularly, will have difficulties because their learning is unavailing if they do not appreciate Shakespeare’s philosophy.
            A Glossary has been provided to give some indication of the meaning of the words Shakespeare uses to articulate his philosophy. The words are not defined according to normal usage because in many instances normal usage has distorted the meaning of the words. Such meanings have been prejudiced by the inadequate paradigm that has seen the Sonnets remain a mystery for 400 years.
            The Glossary presents a further section through the Sonnets. Its use in conjunction with the text and the diagrams should, over time, allow insights to develop into Shakespeare’s simple but profound philosophy.


    Because Volume 1 presents evidence and argument for Shakespeare’s philosophy from a close analysis of his Sonnets and his longer poems and plays, there are only few bibliographic references throughout the volume. Any such references are identified at first by title, author and date, and if necessary by page number, and any further mentions by author and date. Publication details can be found in the brief bibliography of significant sources in the appendices.
            Again, because Volumes 2 and 3 examine the works of Shakespeare exclusively they have no bibliography and the few works cited can be sourced in the bibliography in Volume 1. Volume 4, by contrast, with its study of Duchamp, Mallarmé, Wittgenstein and Darwin, and in its ten essays on seminal thinkers, makes multiple references. The references are numbered in the text and listed in the bibliography at the end of Volume 4.

    The relation of the Sonnet philosophy to the plays and poems

    Though the poems and plays will not be discussed at length in Volume 1, their content is consistent with the philosophy articulated in the Sonnets. Volume 3 considers a selection of nine plays and the longer poems to demonstrate that they were all written as expressions of the philosophic understanding Shakespeare eventually gave exact logical expression to in the Sonnets of 1609.
            The plays and poems cannot be understood without a prior appreciation of the Sonnet philosophy. The pervasive infiltration of the old paradigm into every facet of learning means it becomes the recourse when difficulties are encountered in the understanding of Shakespeare’s works. The recourse to the Judeo/Christian paradigm is so common throughout the Shakespearean literature that only a thorough inculcation of the philosophy of the Sonnets can cure the blindness.


    The material in Volume 1 is organised according to the structural principles of the Sonnets. The overall logic of the Sonnets is the ultimate recourse in the understanding of the various elements and details of the set. Everything presented here has its source in Q.
            The arrangement of Parts 1 to 4 is designed to reflect the logical relation between sexual differentiation in nature, sexual persistence, the erotic condition of the mind, and Shakespeare’s expression of his understanding. Nature and the sexual dynamic, the increase argument, truth and beauty, and the mythic role of the Poet are considered in turn. The progress through the Parts will be tracked by the consistent development of the template or diagrammatic representation derived from the logical unit of meaning. It will show that the basic template has the necessary multiplicity to represent the logical relation between the Parts. As a consequence it will clarify the logical relationship between the traditional categories of nature, body, mind, and myth.
            Part 1 will consider the whole set and the division into two parts. Part 2 will consider the increase argument of the first 14 sonnets. Part 3 will consider the dynamic of truth and beauty as the logical theme for the majority of sonnets. Part 4 will consider the role of the Poet as both philosopher and mythic poet. Part 5 will then present some of the numerological features not discussed fully in the preceding Parts.
            The brief indication in this introduction of the systematic ordering of the Sonnets into a philosophic tract of exceptional precision yet of unmatched poetic intensity should prepare the reader for the nature of the revelations in the five Parts that follow. By the end it should be possible to understand how Shakespeare was able to write a philosophy of unmatched logic in the form of sonnets considered the greatest love poems in the literature.
            The text and arrangement of this second edition (2019) of Volume 1 from William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy (2005) remains substantially the same as the original. Fifty typos from the 2005 edition are corrected, N/n for nature restored and ‘Alien’ Poet (as per the 1609 edition) replaces ‘Rival’ Poet. A few paragraphs are updated to accommodate further insights, particularly from the 1623 Folio. This 2019 edition is the second of the four Volumes republished using digital printing, with Volumes 3 and 4 to follow over the next two years.

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    Contents and Introduction   +   Nature and the sexual dynamic   +   The increase argument
    Truth and beauty   +   The logic of myth   +   The cryptic numerology   +   Appendices   +   Glossary

    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005