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Table of Contents The Sonnet Form A sonnet is a fourteen-line lyric poem, traditionally written in iambic pentameter—that is, in lines ten syllables long, with accents falling on every second syllable, as in: Sonnets were also written during the height of classical English verse, by Dryden and Pope, among others, and written again during the heyday of English Romanticism, when Wordsworth, Shelley, and particularly John Keats created wonderful sonnets.
Today, the sonnet remains the most influential and important verse form in the history of English poetry. Two kinds of sonnets have been most common in English poetry, and they take their names from the greatest poets to utilize them: The Petrarchan sonnet is divided into two main parts, called the octave and the sestet.
The octave and the sestet are usually contrasted in some key way: The first three parts are each four lines long, and are known as quatrains, rhymed ABAB; the fourth part is called the couplet, and is rhymed CC.
The Shakespearean sonnet is often used to develop a sequence of metaphors or ideas, one in each quatrain, while the couplet offers either a summary or a new take on the preceding images or ideas. My love is as a fever, longing still For that which longer nurseth the disease, Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill, The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
Not only is his sequence largely occupied with subverting the traditional themes of love sonnets—the traditional love poems in praise of beauty and worth, for instance, are written to a man, while the love poems to a woman are almost all as bitter and negative as Sonnet —he also combines formal patterns with daring and innovation.
Many of his sonnets in the sequence, for instance, impose the thematic pattern of a Petrarchan sonnet onto the formal pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet, so that while there are still three quatrains and a couplet, the first two quatrains might ask a single question, which the third quatrain and the couplet will answer.
Be especially alert to complexities such as the juxtaposition of Petrarchan and Shakespearean patterns.Gerald Hammond in his book The Reader and the Young Man Sonnets, suggests that the non-expert reader, who is thoughtful and engaged, does not need that much help in understanding the sonnets: though the reader may often feel mystified when trying to decide, for example, if a word or passage has a concrete meaning or an abstract meaning, laying.
You know the rhythm.
If you’re a native English speaker, the chances are good that you’ve read more sonnets than any other form of poetry. The line, syllable-per-line structure is embedded in your memory, as is the ababcdcd-efefgg rhyme scheme.
Because it’s familiar to you, writing a sonnet may come quite naturally. Turnitin provides instructors with the tools to prevent plagiarism, engage students in the writing process, and provide personalized feedback. Old twists on new tunes, every Thursday.
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