Sonnet 94: Shakespeare’s Unmoved Mover

Louis Petrich + Eva Brann

This episode takes us through a close reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94, which many consider to be his most enigmatic. Annapolis tutor Eva Brann brings a clear argument to the poem, taking us quatrain by quatrain through the poet’s descriptions of the beloved’s power over the poet through cold detachment and contingent self-mastery. For Brann, the sonnet provides exemplary evidence that “love and logic, passion and thinking, are closely intertwined.” The existence of the sonnet also masterfully enacts its revenge on the stone-cold beloved, whose legacy is defined by the sonnet itself, and its lingering concluding couplet: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” We also explore the idea that the mastery of logic and language—when kindly and thoughtfully wielded—can prevent the passions of human nature from issuing in inarticulate violence and corruption. This episode is hosted by Louis Petrich.

In this Episode

  • Eva Brann
    Guest Eva Brann

    Eva Brann is a tutor at St. John’s College. She is currently reading and studying the Platonic dialogue Euthydemus.

  • Host Louis Petrich

    Louis Petrich is a tutor at St. John’s College. This semester, he is exploring Euripides in freshman seminar, teaching Pascal in freshman laboratory, and leading a philosophy and theology tutorial in the Graduate Institute.

Featured Release

The power and beauty of Homer’s imagery in the Iliad is undeniable, and his scenes of battle often prompt vexing questions about ancient and modern virtues. Can killing and dying in war be beautiful? Is a just cause required for glory to be gained? Is war a courageous way of fulfilling human nature and, ultimately, of embracing the reality that death awaits us all? This episode, in which Annapolis host Louis Petrich and tutor Erica Beall delve into the dramatic contrasts that make Homer’s work powerful and war potentially beautiful, invites us to question our own modern perspectives on this ancient text.

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Continuing the Conversation was funded through the philanthropy of donors to St. John’s College. If you’d like to give to the college’s Annual Fund, your gift will go to support the kinds of inquiry and conversation that comes to life at St. John’s College. It also frees up money for creative projects like this one, which brings great conversation and great books into homes across the world.


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