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18-10-2021

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Shakespeare Sonnets

Shakespeare Sonnets


Shakespeare's sonnets are poems written by William Shakespeare on a variety of themes. When discussing or referring to Shakespeare's sonnets, it is almost always a reference to the 154 sonnets that were first published all together in a quarto in 1609. However, there are six additional sonnets that Shakespeare wrote and included in the plays Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and Love's Labour's Lost. There is also a partial sonnet found in the play Edward III.




Shakespeare’s sonnets are considered a continuation of the sonnet tradition that swept through the Renaissance from Petrarch in 14th-century Italy and was finally introduced in 16th-century England by Thomas Wyatt and was given its rhyming metre and division into quatrains by Henry Howard. With few exceptions, Shakespeare’s sonnets observe the stylistic form of the English sonnetthe rhyme scheme, the 14 lines, and the metre. But Shakespeare’s sonnets introduce such significant departures of content that they seem to be rebelling against well-worn 200-year-old traditions.




Instead of expressing worshipful love for an almost goddess-like yet unobtainable female love-object, as Petrarch, Dante, and Philip Sidney had done, Shakespeare introduces a young man. He also introduces the Dark Lady, who is no goddess. Shakespeare explores themes such as lust, homoeroticism, misogyny, infidelity, and acrimony in ways that may challenge, but which also open new terrain for the sonnet form.




The sonnets are almost all constructed of three quatrains (four-line stanzas) followed by a final couplet. The sonnets are composed in iambic pentameter, the metre used in Shakespeare's plays. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Sonnets using this scheme are known as Shakespearean sonnets, or English sonnets, or Elizabethan sonnets. Often, at the end of the third quatrain occurs the volta ("turn"), where the mood of the poem shifts, and the poet expresses a turn of thought.


In his plays, Shakespeare himself seemed to be a satiric critic of sonnets—the allusions to them are often scornful. Then he went on to create one of the longest sonnet-sequences of his era, a sequence that took some sharp turns away from the tradition. During the eighteenth century, The Sonnets' reputation in England was relatively low; in 1805, The Critical Review credited John Milton with the perfection of the English sonnet. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Shakespeare and Milton seemed to be on an equal footing, but critics, burdened by an over-emphasis on biographical explorations, continued to contend with each other for decades on this point.



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