Anyone reading Shakespeare's sonnets will notice how often they speak of self-love. This is the central theme of Philip Martin's study, which uses detailed analysis of selected sonnets and groups of sonnets to bring out what they can tell us of 'Shakespeare's feeling for selfhood', good and bad kinds of self-love, different kinds of love for another, the relation of these different kinds of love to the world of natural growth and temporal succession, and finally the ways in which art can properly be defined as a form of love. The study begins by considering self-love in relation to the youth and the poet, and goes on to consider the sonnet as a form through a comparison of Shakespeare and Donne. He concludes that the poems enforce recognition of the fact that art, though of far-reaching importance, is not as important as the life that it serves and fosters.
Preface; Introduction; 1. Sin of self-love: the youth; 2. Sin of self-love: the poet; 3. Self-love and love itself; 4. The sonnet and the sonneteers; 5. Shakespeare and Donne; 6. Art as a mode of love; Bibliography; List of Shakespeare's sonnets discussed; Index.