Briefly: Sonnets

Hey guys, how have you been?

I’m taking a poetry class this semester and it’s so much fun. I’m learning a lot about the history of various forms, reading so many great pieces I never would have found myself as well as experimenting with these new mediums. I thought I’d ‘briefly’ share what I’m learning and discovering with you guys in the hopes that you’ll learn something too 🙂

Disclaimer: I’ll always try provide the most accurate information possible but if I misinterpret something I’ve read or my lecturer has said or if my imitation of a style doesn’t actually quite work for some reason, absolutely let me know so I can try improve!


This week we learnt about the sonnet, which I’ve discovered can be absolute gems to read despite, or perhaps because of how short they are.

History:

A sonnet is a form of poetry composed of fourteen lines & usually iambic*, originating from Italy with two main subsets: the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet.

Francesco Petrach (1304-1374) brought widespread attention to the form in his book – Canzoniere, a collection of 366 poems, of which 317 were sonnets written to an idealised lover, Laura.

Believe it or not, this is where the Petrarchan Sonnet was born.

Form: 8 lines/6 lines, rhyme scheme*: ababcdcd (octave) / cdecde (sestet).

Content: one of the most distinctive markers of a sonnet is the change in tone between the two sections of the poem, whether it’s initially asking a broad question in the first stanza and then providing an answer in the second or something else, there must be some type of shift in perspective.

Interesting fact: By looking at the rhyme scheme, you can tell that Italian has much more rhyme built into its language compared to English.

Two hundred years later, Thomas Wyatt became one of the first champions of the sonnet in England both translating Petrach’s work and creating his own. His friend & contemporary, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surry also tried to do the same. Both men are known for making modifications to the structure to make it more suitable for English, creating what is now known as the Shakespearean sonnet.

Why is it called the Shakespearean sonnet? Quite simply, Shakespeare was good at it, wrote a lot of it and was the one that really popularised the form in English.

Form: 8 lines/4 lines/ 2 lines, rhyme scheme: ababcdcd / efef gg.

Content: the couplet (gg) at the end of the poem is crucial as it differs the SS (Shakespearean sonnet) from the PS (Petrarchan sonnet) in that it could introduce a crescendo to the poem or introduce a quick turn of events and go against everything else said in the poem.

One of my personal favourites, out of the very few I’ve read: (Sonnet 65, William Shakespeare)

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Continue reading “Briefly: Sonnets”

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