2. The man who writes a goodlove sonnet needs not only tobe enamored of a woman, but also to be enamored of the sonnet. ~C.S. Lewis~
3. Thank you for choosing this guide to assistyou in your sonnet-writing journey! Thisstep-by-step guide should be an excellentsource for you as you embark on thisexciting endeavor!
4. Now, before we get started writing asonnet, it’s important to understand howsonnets are set up. Let’s take a look atone of Shakespeare’s most famoussonnets so that you can visually see howthe poem should look.
5. Sonnet 73 That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruind choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou seest the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Deaths second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou seest the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consumed with that which it was nourishd by.This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
6. On first glance, this might just seem like a regular oldpoem, but we would be doing the sonnet a great injusticeif we thought that. The sonnet is actually a carefullycrafted argument that builds in a very particular way. Let’stake a look at the format of a sonnet and useShakespeare’s Sonnet 73 as an example of how eachsection functions.Once you understand how each section of a sonnet issupposed to work, you will be able to write one on yourown!
7. Quatrain #1: These four lines introduce the main metaphor and theme of the sonnet. That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruind choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.Here, we find out that this poem is about a man who’sgrowing old. He’s comparing his life to the changing of theseasons. The year is coming to a close as fall slowly gives wayto winter, and so too is his life. In the first line he makes itclear that he is addressing another person, as he uses theword “thou.” This is the first stage of the sonnet’s argument.
8. Quatrain #2: The metaphor and the theme are continued and acreative illustration is usually given to further the ideas of thefirst quatrain. In me thou seest the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Deaths second self, that seals up all in rest. We see the same theme continued here, only now the man has shifted from comparing himself to the end of the year to the end of a day. He has narrowed down his argument from a year to a day. This makes the poem seem more urgent because days pass much more quickly than years do. The creative example we see here is the reference to night being “death’s second self.”
9. Quatrain #3: Here, one of two things occurs: the metaphor isextended, or a twist or conflict is brought into the sonnet,known as the peripeteia, or the volta. This turn is vital andmust be in the sonnet, though some writers prefer to placethis in the closing couplet. In me thou seest the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consumed with that which it was nourishd by.Here, the argument continues and the metaphor shifts tosomething even more fleeting than a day—a dying fire.Shakespeare chooses not to include the volta here; hedecides to keep it for the last two lines of the poem.Let’s take a look at it that so you can see how it functionsin the sonnet.
10. Couplet: These two lines summarize the entire sonnet and givethe reader something new to think about. They often act as the“thesis” of the poem. This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long. Here, Shakespeare does not continue with another metaphor. Rather, he gives us the volta that must be in the sonnet. The speaker explains that the reason the other person loves him so strongly is because he/she knows that the speaker will soon die. They must experience all the love they can now, before he passes away. This acts as the thesis because he states that their love is strong, and uses the first three quatrains to tell us why their love is strong.
11. Now that you know all the different sections of theShakespearean sonnet and understand how each onefunctions, you’re almost ready to write one of your own. Wejust need to go over a few things about style and form first.All sonnets require the following stylistically: 1. 3 quatrains 2. 1 couplet 3. 14 lines 4. ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme 5. Iambic pentameterLet’s take one more look at Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 so thatyou can see how each of these are included.
12. Sonnet 73 That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruind choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou seest the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Deaths second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou seest the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consumed with that which it was nourishd by.This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
13. Let’s start by brainstorming. Make sure you have a paper andpencil handy. A good eraser is also recommended! Now, let’sbegin. What do you want to say in your sonnet? A lot ofsonnets pertain to love in some way, but yours doesn’t haveto. If you are having trouble coming up with some ideas, hereare some things to think about:-school-sports-losing a loved one-falling in love-a pet-a problem-an emotion
14. Now that you have your topic, think of ametaphor that you want to use throughoutyour sonnet. Try to think of something thatwouldn’t normally be compared to your topic,and then figure out ways that they are similar.Once you have your metaphor and how youwant to compare it to your topic, write it downso you don’t forget it later.
15. Now you are ready to begin composing. Make sure that you useonly 10 syllables in each line, and do your best to keep them all iniambic pentameter. Also, choose your words that come at theend of each line carefully; remember that another word will needto rhyme with it. Also remember that you want to introduce yourtopic and your metaphor here.Hint: If you’re having trouble with iambic pentameter, go back toShakespeare’s Sonnet 73 and read each line to this beat: duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH. Quatrain 1: 1. ___________________________________________________________ a 2. ___________________________________________________________ b 3. ___________________________________________________________ a 4. ___________________________________________________________ b
16. Here, you want to continue your metaphor and your argument, but you want to build on what you wrote in the first quatrain. Remember that you are setting up for an eventual turn that will come either in the next quatrain or in the couplet, so be preparing for that.Quatrain 2:5. ___________________________________________________________ c6. ___________________________________________________________ d7. ___________________________________________________________ c8. ___________________________________________________________ d
17. Here is where it starts getting even more exciting! Hangtough; it’s hard to write a sonnet and you may be feelingfrustrated, but you can do it. This is where a lot ofShakespearean sonnets bring in the volta, or the turn. Howcan you shift your argument through the use of yourmetaphor? Do that here in this quatrain. Or, if you wish, savethe twist for the final couplet, and build up your metaphorsome more here.Quatrain 3:9. ___________________________________________________________ e10. ___________________________________________________________ f11. ___________________________________________________________ e12. ___________________________________________________________ f
18. Okay, we’ve come to the final couplet. Make sure to put your turn here if you haven’t done so yet. This is where you need to summarize your argument—remember to think of it as your thesis. Why do the previous twelve lines matter? Also remember that this is a couplet, so both lines will rhyme at the end.Couplet:13. ___________________________________________________________ g14. ___________________________________________________________ g
19. Now put your sonnet together. All of your lines should come together in the following manner:1. ______________________________________________________________ a2. ______________________________________________________________ b3. ______________________________________________________________ a4. ______________________________________________________________ b5. ______________________________________________________________ c6. ______________________________________________________________ d7. ______________________________________________________________ c8. ______________________________________________________________ d9. ______________________________________________________________ e10. ______________________________________________________________ f11. ______________________________________________________________ e12. ______________________________________________________________ f13. ______________________________________________________________ g14. ______________________________________________________________ g
20. Congratulations! You’ve just written your ownShakespearean sonnet! Now remember, just becauseyou’ve finished doesn’t mean you’re done. Good writingis all about revision. Go back and make sure your sonnetis as strong in all areas as you would like it to be. Feelfree to edit and revise until you feel like you’veperfected it.
21. The End. We hope that this guide has helped you learn how to write a Shakespeareansonnet. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. How To Guides, Inc. 1564 Stratford St. Avon, England 01616