Analyze How Poets Have Used the Sonnet Form to Explore Ideas About Love and Mortality

Topics: Sonnet, Love, Poetry Pages: 11 (4754 words) Published: September 21, 2011
‘Analyze How Poets Have Used the Sonnet Form to Explore Ideas About Love and Mortality’ Sonnets have been used to paint a detailed picture of human emotion, tradition and culture, through the centuries. Originally, they began in the 14th century and each era inherited the collections of fourteen lined literary genius and reworked its form, subject or use of sensual imagery in order to allow the literature to represent the moods of the time. The word “sonnet” comes from the Italian word, ‘sonnetto’, meaning “little song” or little sound”. Sonnets are written in iambic pentameter, which is the term describing a particular rhythm that the verse adopts; however, there have been sonnets such as, Sir Phillip Sidney’s ‘Astrophel’ and ‘Stella’, which use iambic hexameters. Although subtle changes have caused differences between sonnets over time, there are two principal kinds that caused sonnets to be divided into Petrarchan and Elizabethan (Shakespearian) forms. The sonnet form is like a seed, from which the two main branches have formed, but in addition sonnet forms such as: the Spenserian, the Caudate, the Curtal, the Pushkin and the indefinable sonnets, have come about and created further branches throughout time. The Petrarchan branch of sonnets are formed of two divisions: the octave, eight lines of poetry which have the rhyming pattern ‘abba abba’, and the sestet, six lines of poetry with the rhyming pattern ‘cde cde’. The Petrarchan sonnets were named after Francesco Petrarcha, an Italian humanist and poet. They are set out as firstly introducing a problem, a reflection, a situation of doubt or conflict, or to express a desire (the octave) and then the second section comments on the issue or makes a suggestion of a solution. Formed from the Petrarchan form, was the Elizabethan (Shakespearean) style of sonnet, introduced by Thomas Wyatt in the 16th century. However, the contemporary rhyming meter was adapted by the Earl of Surrey. The most influential sonnet writers of this time who used this type of sonnet include; William Shakespeare, (probably one of the most, if not the most influential literary expressionist in English history), as well as others such as Michael Drayton, Samuel Daniel and Edward Spenser. Adaptations by all these writers, meant the new form of sonnet had three parts, each part known as a quatrain, usually expressing a different aspect of the poem’s subject within each quatrain. The rhyming pattern was now transformed so that groups of four lines rhymed ‘ab ab cd cd ef ef’, and a final couplet rhyming ‘gg’. So, sonnets are indeed the most adapted, edited and one of the most successful expressions of human nature in the literary history. The expression of Love is indefinite when it comes to the subject of sonnets. However, the contrast between what love means to each poet and how they express the implications it has had for them and their lovers can be significantly noticed. This is markedly visible between William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116” and Michael Drayton’s “Since there’s no help”. Shakespeare’s poem consists of language that depicts a scene of two lovers who want to defy all obstacles to continue consummating their love, dedicating all their time to the powerful bond of emotion that they share with one another. However, in Drayton’s poem he writes of a love which has faded, the lovers separated, wanting to forget the love they once had. Shakespeare presents their love as an, “ever-fixèd mark”, depicting in the metaphor the belief that love is permanent. In contrast Drayton thinks that the lovers should, “shake hands forever; cancel all their vows,” showing his disdain for the love that once was shared with his lover, suggesting they should only formally shake hands whenever their paths cross in the future , that they should cancel all the vows of love, promise and dedication that once were. These two lines display the differences between the two poets’ interpretation of what love is and maybe...
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