Shakespearean sonnet features

Shakespearean sonnet

William Shakespeare produced a new pattern of Sonnet called ‘Shakespearean Sonnet’ or ‘Elizabethan Sonnet’ or ‘English Sonnet‘. The following are the salient features of his Sonnet:

  1. The Shakespearean Sonnets are divided into three quatrains with four lines each and the concluding stanza is a Couplet containing two lines.
  2. The Rhyme Scheme of the Sonnets is ‘abab cdc efef gg’.
  3. In the fist three quatrains, the poet establishes a theme or problem and then resolves it in the final two lines.
  4. They comprise Iambic Pentameters. (Each line contains five meters and each meter contains an Unaccented Syllable following an Accented Syllable).

Difference between Petrarchan and Shakespearean Sonnets:

The Petrarchan Sonnets comprise two stanzas. The former stanza comprises eight lines called ‘Octave’ while the latter stanza comprises six lines called ‘Sestet’. It has the rhyme scheme abbaabba cdcdcd. It is Petrarch who is called the Father of ‘Sonnet’. He belonged to Italy and so the Sonnet invented by him is called either ‘Petrarchan Sonnet’ or ‘Italian Sonnet’.

An Example of Shakespearean Sonnet

From fairest Creatures we desire increase

From fairest creatures we desire increase,     – a

That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,     -b

But as the riper should by time decease,     -a

His tender heir might bear his memory:      – b

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,     -c

Feed’st thy light’st flame with self-substantial fuel,   -d

Making a famine where abundance lies,       – c

Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.     -d

Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament    -e

And only herald to the gaudy spring,      -f

Within thine own bud buriest they content      -e

And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.     -f

Pity the world, or else this glutton be,      -g

To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.       -g

Memorable Points

  • Shakespeare composed 154 Sonnets between 1592 to 1598.
  • The Sonnets 18, 116 and 73 are most widely read in all of English Literature.
  • The first known Sonnet in English was composed by Thomas Wyatt and Henry Haward.
  • Edmund Spenser composed Sonnets with a little variance in the pattern of the English Sonnet. The Rhyme Scheme of his Sonnet is abab bcbc cdcd ee.
  • The majority of Shakespeare’s sonnets (1-126) are dedicated to a young man. The Poet convinces the young man to marry and produce children to remain immortal in his first seventeen sonnets.
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