11 December 2011
William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 71
William Shakespeare is one of the most well-known writers of all time. His sonnets are timeless and his plays are performed again and again. Much of his history is known, but can also be considered a little cloudy. He seemed to be a sarcastic man not necessarily loved by all. I enjoy his plays, but personally love his sonnets best of all. Knowing the controversy surrounding his life, “Sonnet 71” offers a slight insight into all of that.
“Sonnet 71” is part of a sequence of sonnets that talk of the love surrounding a young man, then describes a love triangle, and then ends with the talk of a mysterious dark woman. “Sonnet 71” is a typical fourteen line sonnet with a ten syllable iambic pentameter; a five stress line. Sonnets were usually written this way to emphasize the end of the line, or last syllable. Although all so far is described close to an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, Shakespeare actually started his own form of sonnet writing. It became known as the English variation or Shakespearean rhyme. The rhyme scheme of “Sonnet 71” is: abab, cdcd, efef, gg. This is quite different than an Italian rhythm which is generally: abba, abba, cdcd, ee. Shakespeare took the sonnet format and made it his own. Each quatrain can mean something different and the ending couplet usually produces the meaning behind the sonnet. The fact that the sonnets describe a beautiful man was also what made Shakespeare’s writings so different. Most writers spoke of women and rarely men as the subject of affection. Although a woman is spoken of later in the sequence, the first half of the sonnets is dedicated to the praise of a man.
In “Sonnet 71” the purpose seems to be the love he has for a young man and how he wishes to protect that man from sadness if the author should die. It speaks of the relationship the poet has with the world and how much he cares for the young man. Line 1 states, “No...