How to Write a Sonnet

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How to Write a Sonnet

Learn to write a sonnet in iambic pentameter, just like Shakespeare did. Discover the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the quatrains and couplets that make up a Shakespearean sonnet. Here are the rules:

* It must consist of 14 lines.
* It must be written in iambic pentameter (duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH). * It must be written in one of various standard rhyme schemes. If you're writing the most familiar kind of sonnet, the Shakespearean, the rhyme scheme is this: A

B
A
B
C
D
C
D
E
F
E
F
G
G
Every A rhymes with every A, every B rhymes with every B, and so forth. You'll notice this type of sonnet consists of three quatrains (that is, four consecutive lines of verse that make up a stanza or division of lines in a poem) and one couplet (two consecutive rhyming lines of verse). Ah, but there's more to a sonnet than just the structure of it. A sonnet is also an argument — it builds up a certain way. And how it builds up is related to its metaphors and how it moves from one metaphor to the next. In a Shakespearean sonnet, the argument builds up like this: * First quatrain: An exposition of the main theme and main metaphor. * Second quatrain: Theme and metaphor extended or complicated; often, some imaginative example is given. * Third quatrain: Peripeteia (a twist or conflict), often introduced by a "but" (very often leading off the ninth line). * Couplet: Summarizes and leaves the reader with a new, concluding image. One of Shakespeare's best-known sonnets, Sonnet 18, follows this pattern: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,...
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