A sonnet, from the Italian word sonetto meaning 'little song,' is a lyric poem usually with 14 lines of iambic pentameter and a set rhyme scheme. While sonnets can explore all sorts of themes, love is the most common, and the original topic of the sonnet. Two Major Types
The sonnet takes many forms, including the Spenserian sonnet and Miltonic sonnet, which is just fun to say. But the two most-studied sonnets are the Italian sonnet, known as the Petrarchan sonnet, and the English sonnet, known as the Shakespearean sonnet. Each type uses its 14 lines for different purposes and with different rhyme schemes. The Italian Sonnet
As you might guess, the Petrarchan sonnet is named after a 14th century Italian poet named Francesco Petrarch. He is known for his poems about Laura, with whom he fell hopelessly in love upon first sight of her in a church. Beautiful and worthy, Laura was married and therefore off limits to Petrarch. This did not stop him from writing of Laura in poems such as 'Soleasi Nel Mio Cor,' translated into English by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. She ruled in beauty o'er this heart of mine,
A noble lady in a humble home,
And now her time for heavenly bliss has come,
'Tis I am mortal proved, and she divine.
The soul that all its blessings must resign,
And love whose light no more on Earth finds room,
Might rend the rocks with pity for their doom,
Yet none their sorrows can in words enshrine;
They weep within my heart; and ears are deaf
Save mine alone, and I am crushed with care,
And naught remains to me save mournful breath.
Assuredly but dust and shade we are,
Assuredly desire is blind and brief,
Assuredly it's hope but ends in death.
In form, the Petrarchan sonnet has two stanzas: the octave and the sestet. The octave consists of the first eight lines that follow the specific rhyme scheme abbaabba. The sestet, the last six lines, usually follows the cdecde or cdcdcd rhyme scheme. The octave offers the reader the subject of the poem, often an argument, observation, or even a question. The sestet then works to make a change to the subject or a resolution. This contrast at line 9 is called the volta. The English Sonnet
By the 1500s, the English sonnet was borne out of experimentation of the Petrarchan sonnet from poets like Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey. As you can imagine, among those poets influenced by this form was none other than William Shakespeare. Even though Shakespeare is not attributed with creating the updated form, he used it with such finesse that the English sonnet is often called the Shakespearean sonnet. One of the most famous of his 154 sonnets, is 'Sonnet 18', sometimes noted as 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' Like the Petrarchan sonnet, Shakespeare writes of love and beauty. 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,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The form of the Shakespearean sonnet, unlike the Petrarchan sonnet however, is divided into three quatrains and a couplet. The quatrains, which means each stanza has four lines, follow an abab cdcd efef rhyme scheme. The couplet, which is two successive lines of rhyming verse, of course adds gg to the end of the Shakespearean sonnet's rhyme scheme. Lesson Summary
To recap, a sonnet is a lyric poem usually with 14 lines of iambic pentameter and a set rhyme scheme. Among the themes developed in sonnets, love is the most common, and the original. The first of the two major types of sonnets is the Petrarchan sonnet, or the Italian sonnet, which has two stanzas: the octave and the sestet. The octave consists of the first eight lines, and the sestet, the last six lines. The second type, the Shakespearean sonnet, is divided into three quatrains and a couplet. The quatrainsare when each stanza has four lines, and the couplet is two successive lines of rhyming verse. Aside from the division of the stanzas, these two forms also differ in rhyme scheme. So, if you're looking to woo that special someone, look no further than Shakespeare and his 14-lined poem.
The Role of a sonnet in English Literature
'Sonnet' just means 'little song' in Italian, but it is a precise lyric form. Its greatest Italian exponent was Petrarch (1304-1374), an older contemporary of Chaucer, who wrote a sequence of lyric poems addressed to Laura, a woman he saw one day in church at Avignon and fell passionately in love with. Most of the 365 poems of his Rime in vita e morta di Madonna Laura1 are sonnets and this poetic form quickly gained great popularity all over Europe.During the Renaissance period it was highly fashionable - nay, practically required - for the well-born, educated courtier to write verse in his spare time. It was seen as good mental exercise (a bit like doing the crossword!), showed an understanding of art and philosophy, and it amused one's friends. There was no such thing as a 'professional' lyric poet, and for many centuries, even after the invention of the printing press, such poetry was passed around one's social circle in manuscript form.Two English courtier-poets, Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, introduced the sonnets of Petrarch to these isles during the reign of Henry VIII, in the early 16th Century. They first translated some of Petrarch's sonnets and then began to compose their own. The groundwork was thus laid for that generation of Elizabethans - Sidney, Spenser, Daniel, Drayton, Greville, Shakespeare - who honed the English lyric to its finest form.We often refer to the Elizabethan period as a 'flowering' or a 'golden age' of poetry. That's all very poetic - but let's cut to the chase: most of the greatest lyric poems in the entire canon of English literature were written within a period of about two decades. A white-hot supernova of poetry exploded in the 1580s and burnt fiercely to the end of the century!Its glamorous young hero was Philip Sidney (1554-1586) - courtier, diplomat, poet, fighter, and author of the first great sonnet sequence in English, Astrophil and Stella. Through 108 sonnets and songs he remade the sonnet into a handsome and enduring vessel for the English vernacular. The Petrarchan Sonnet
The Petrarchan sonnet (which denotes a type of sonnet written in English, as opposed to Petrarch's actual sonnets) is composed of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter. The 'pentameter' part means that the line has five metrical feet. The 'iambic' bit refers to the type of foot. In this case it is an iamb, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. 'Prefer' is an iamb, as are 'today', 'myself', 'as if'. In other words, an iambic pentameter is a line of ten syllables in a da-dum rhythm: Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless tow'rs of Ilium?
- From Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
There is also a particular rhyming scheme for the Petrarchan sonnet, which is:abba, abba, cde, cde - although variations are allowed in the sestet (eg, cdcdcd).A rhyming scheme is simply a way of describing which lines rhyme with each other. Since the rhyme is external (i.e. the last word or syllable of each line) each of the letters above refers to one line of the sonnet, and any line denoted by the letter 'a' rhymes with any other line denoted by the letter 'a', and so on.Petrarchan sonnets are divided into two parts - the octave is eight lines long, and is used to present a thesis, an argument or an idea. At line nine, a change occurs, known as the volta (Italian for 'turn). This is generally signalled by a word such as 'But', 'Yet' or 'Then', or an exclamation. The final six lines, the sestet, give the reason, conclusion or counter-argument for what was presented in the octave.The English poets started to play around subtly with this structure for different effects. Sidney favoured a slightly weakened volta in the ninth line and a stronger one in the 13th line. This would develop into the final rhyming couplet favoured by Shakespeare. Sidney and Shakespeare, then, both had a penchant for delivering the real blow in the final two lines of the sonnet.To get an idea of how these structural rules work, one needs to see them in action:
Like some weak lords, neighbor'd by mighty kings,
To keep themselves and their chief cities free,
Do easily yield, that all their coasts may be
Ready to store their camps of needful things:
So Stella's heart finding what power Love brings,
To keep itself in life and liberty,
Doth willing grant, that in the frontiers he
Use all to help his other conquerings:
And thus her heart escapes, but thus her eyes
Serve him with shot, her lips his heralds are; Her breasts his tents, legs his triumphal car; Her flesh his food, her skin his armor brave,
And I, but for because my prospect lies
Upon that coast, am giv'n up for a slave.
- Sonnet 29 from Astrophil and Stella by Philip Sidney (c 1582)3.In the sonnet above, the octave, which has a rhyming scheme of abba, abba, builds up an elaborate simile - Stella's heart is being compared to something. There is a definite volta at the ninth line: 'And thus her heart escapes'. The sestet then extends the simile and begins to explain the situation. There is a much stronger volta at the 13th line: 'And I', which is the lover's complaint, the punchline. This structure of ideas and images is known as the conceit of the poem, a complex and sustained comparison or concept, often witty or paradoxical. Politics and the Queen
As well as being a young man skilled in martial arts, Sidney was a politician and diplomat, and his career was on the rise. Sidney's description of Stella's heart 'neighbor'd by mighty kings' and the references to 'their coasts' and 'upon that coast' seem to indicate the British Isles under threat. Stella's heart, 'finding what power Love brings' has taken a decision to effect a policy which will 'keep itself in life and liberty' - in other words, a decision of political expediency, a sacrifice in one area to achieve survival in another area. In 1581, around the time Sidney was writing his sonnet sequence, Queen Elizabeth was being courted once again by the Duc D'Anjou, younger brother of the French king. Funnily enough, no-one in England was overjoyed at the prospect of gaining a French prince as consort. Sidney was at this time closely involved in the Earl of Leicester's attempt to build a Protestant alliance across Europe, and the Leicester faction believed that marriage to Anjou would greatly endanger the project. 'Stella's heart' like Elizabeth's heart, is a political object; if it would 'easily yield' the result could be that England is 'giv'n up for a slave', with English resources being used to prosecute France's wars in return for safety from Spain. The significance of 'serve him with shot' is also a reference to Continental-style warfare, as opposed to traditional English fighting.
Gordon, Helen Heightsman. The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare's Sonnets. Xlibris, 2005. Otis, William Bradley, and Morriss H. Needleman.An Outline History of English Literature: Volume I. NY: Barnes and Noble, 1967. Shakespeare's Sonnets: Notes. Lincoln NE: Cliff's Notes, 1965. Wells, Stanley. Shakespeare: A Life in Drama. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., 1995. Whalen, Richard F. Shakespeare: Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994.
The theme of the present paper is ”The Usage of Stylistic Devices in the Sonnets of William Shakespeare”. The reasons for writing a paper on this topic are several. William Shakespeare was one of the most legendary British authors; his works make a connection between different generations – Shakespeare’s creative works were researched during the centuries from various points of view. Another reason is that the experience of the mankind with denying works of some authors of the preceding centuries and therefore ignoring the truly valuable and emotionally impressive pieces of writing shows that it is significant to understand the views on eternal values expressed by different people form the preceding epochs. ”The Sonnets” had not been investigated enough from the stylistic aspect – the determination of the meanings of stylistic devices was ommitted in less popular sonnets; and their influence on the mood and perception of the sonnets had not been researched deep enough either. Therefore, the aim of the paper is: to examine and analyse the stylistic devices used by Shakespeare in his sonnets and to determine their main functions. The objectives:
observation and study of theoretical literature on the ubject of stylistic devices study and analysis of the stylistic peculiarities of the sonnets as a genre stylistic analysis of the selected sonnets.
The methods of research:
the study and critical analysis of scientific literature and mass media products on the topic observation.
The methods of data collection:
The outline of the chapters:
The paper contains six chapters. The first chapter gives an insight into William Shakespeare's biography. The second chapter provides a brief interpretation and focuses on the analysis of the stylistic devices used in sonnets 18, 23 and 66. The third chapter contains an interpretation of the themes and analysis of the stylistic devices in sonnets 128, 130 and 137. The fourth chapter provides the thematic and stylistic analysis of sonnets 153 and 154. The fifth chapter concentrates on the opinions of the critics and writers from different epochs about Shakespeare. The last chapter shows the literary, cultural and social value of Shakespeare's works in today's popular culture.…
Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless somemother.
For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:
So thou through windows of thine age shall see
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remember'd not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.–
William Shakespeare Sonnet 3
by William Shakespeare is one of the 17 procreation sonnets urging the man to whom he is writing to notto waste his beauty by not having children. The intended recipient of this and other sonnets is a subject of scholarlydebate, with some believing it to be Henry Wriothesley.Sonnet 3 is typical of a Shakespearean sonnet in its form: fourteen decasyllabic lines, consisting of three quatrainsand a concluding rhyming couplet.In this sonnet, the poet is exhorting the Young Man to marry and have a child, merely to immortalise his beautyThe parting message can be seen within the last lines of the poems:But if thou live, remember'd not to be,Die single, and thine image dies with thee. O! that you were your self; but, love, you are
No longer yours, than you your self here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give:
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination; then you were
Yourself again, after yourself's decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold,
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day
And barren rage of death's eternal cold?
O! none but unthrifts. Dear my love, you know,
You had a father: let your son say so.
is the first of Shakespeare's procreation sonnets to contain a declaration of love. Throughout this sonnetare descriptions of the winter and the death in nature that this brings. The winter images captured in Sonnet 5 andSonnet 6 reappear in this sonnet. The first line "O! that you were your self;" means that Shakespeare wants the man he is describing to remain as he is,unchanged, not aging. The sonnet is quite philosophical in that it asks how can a person have an identity if they areconstantly changing?The third line of this sonnet "Against this coming end you should prepare" has a Biblical connotation of the Day of Judgment.Like many of the previous procreation sonnets it describes how the man being described needs to have children. Thetwo lines below describe how a person's essence can be captured in their children and that by having children theywould resemble their father.Yourself again, after yourself's deceaseWhen your sweet issue your sweet form should bear Conclusion William Shakespeare was the most influential writer of all-time, bringing a lyrical element to plays about great kings and poor paupers alike. His iambic pentameter verses utilized a natural rhythm of the English language and his themes as well as his literary devices continue to inspire and influence writers even now in the 21st century.
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