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ShakespeareThe sonnet is a type of poem finding its origins in Italy around 1235 AD. While the early sonneteers experimented with patterns, Francesco Petrarch began to solidify sonnet structure. The Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet consists of an octave and a sestet. The octave can be broken down into two quatrains; likewise, the sestet is made up of two tercets. The octave presents an idea to be contrasted by the ending sestet. The particular quatrains and tercets are divided by change in rhyme. Petrarch typically used an ABBA ABBA pattern for the octave, followed by either CDE CDE or CDC DCD rhymes in the sestet. The rhyme scheme and structure work together to emphasize the idea of the poem: the first quatrain presents the theme and the second expands on it. The repeated rhyme scheme within the octave strengthens the idea. The sestet, with either two or three different rhymes, uses its first tercet to reflect on the theme and the last to conclude.


William Shakespeare utilized the sonnet in love poetry of his own, employing the sonnet structure conventionalized by English poets Wyatt and Surrey. This structure, known as the English or Shakespearean sonnet, consists of three quatrains and a concluding couplet. The rhyme scheme is a simple ABAB CDCD EFEF GG format. The effect is “like going for a short drive with a very fast driver: the first lines, even the first quatrain, are in low gear; then the second and third accelerate sharply, and ideas and metaphors flash past; and then there is a sudden throttling-back, and one glides to a stop in the couplet” (Spiller 159). Like Petrarch, Shakespeare used structure to explore the multiple facets of a theme in a short piece.


Please do read more on the above website.  In the meantime, I am putting here a very popular sonnet written by Shakespeare.  Read it carefully and write down as much as you can about what Shakespeare is telling you about "love".  If you were writing a sonnet about friendship, write down what qualities you think you would or do offer your friends for your own friendship, and what qualities do you think you might expect them to offer you.  The qualities for friendship are the same as for love.  Examine what you say and see if you can improve on what you may be doing.  You may, hopefully, be able to write your own sonnet about friendship.




Petrarch's and Shakespeare's Sonnets

Wikipedia Main Poetry Index Other Writers Basic Sonnet Forms


Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:


O, no, it is an ever-fixèd mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand'ring bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his heighth be taken.


Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,


But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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Sonnet 116

By William Shakespeare