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An explanation of Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets

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  1. 1. Sonnets Or, why we care about rhyme schemes © Ms. Mohlere
  2. 2. What the heck is a sonnet? A 14 line poem Must have a strict rhyme scheme and structure, although some poems have played with that structure. Comes from the Italian word “sonetto,” meaning “little poem.”
  3. 3. Petrarch, the great Sonneteer Although he didn’t create the Sonnet, the Italian poet Petrarch, is thought to have perfected its early form. Therefore, early sonnets are called “Petrarchan sonnets.” 1304 – 1374 Born and raised in Tuscany. His father wanted him to train as a lawyer, but he said, “I couldn’t face making a merchandise of my mind.”
  4. 4. Ok, but who is Laura? Petrarch was a priest for a short period. After he left, he caught sight of a woman named “Laura” who inspired him for years to come. It is thought that they had little to no contact. (She may have been married to another man.) Is she real, or an idealized woman?
  5. 5. Ok, but I don’t speak Italian Sir Thomas Wyatt traveled to Italy and brought the form back with him. Thanks to him, we have translations of Petrarch’s poetry, in addition to his own sonnets. Wyatt had an interesting role in history, which you’ll learn about shortly.
  6. 6. The form Two parts, an octet (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). The octet presents an argument, a problem, or some kind of initial idea. The sestet responds to it, solves it, or makes a comment on it. Shifts in tone. The two sections are meant to be separate.
  7. 7. Rhyme Scheme Octet (sometimes called two quatrains): A B B A A B B A Sestet: C D C C D D
  8. 8. Rima #140 - Translated by Wyatt The long love that in my thought doth harbor, And in mine heart doth keep his residence, Into my face presseth with bold pretense And therein campeth, spreading his banner. She that me learneth to love and suffer And will that my trust and lust's negligence Be reined by reason, shame, and reverence With his hardiness taketh displeasure. Wherewithal unto the heart's forest he fleeth, Leaving his enterprise with pain and cry, And there him hideth, and not appeareth. What may I do, when my master feareth, But in the field with him to live and die? For good is the life ending faithfully.
  9. 9. And then this guy got his hands on the form…
  10. 10. Shakespearean Sonnets Shakespearean sonnets are sometimes called “Elizabethan” sonnets. The phrase I have always heard is, Wyatt brought the form to England, and Shakespeare (a generation later), perfected it.
  11. 11. The form Instead of the octet (8 lines), Shakespearean sonnets use 3 sets of quatrains, or four lines. It adds a couplet at the end. The stanzas often either repeat a theme, or elaborate on that theme. So if you don’t get the first four lines, move on to the next. It might explain it for you. The couplet adds a “twist” or sometimes closure to the poem.
  12. 12. Rhyme Scheme Three Quatrains: A B A B C D C D E F E F Couplet: o G o G
  13. 13. Sonnet 130 My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress when she walks treads on the ground. And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare.