When it comes to poetry, the Shakespearean sonnet form is considered one of the most classic and revered forms of poetry. It consists of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter and follows a specific rhyme scheme. In this article, we will explore how to write a sonnet using the traditional Shakespearean sonnet form, including its structure, rhyme scheme, and themes commonly found in these sonnets.
Structure of a Shakespearean Sonnet
The structure of a Shakespearean sonnet is incredibly important, as it sets the framework for the poem. A traditional sonnet consists of 14 lines, typically written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a metrical pattern that consists of five iambs per line, where an iamb is a metrical foot consisting of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.
When writing a Shakespearean sonnet, it is crucial to follow the specific rhyme scheme. The sonnet is divided into three quatrains (four-line stanzas) followed by a final rhymed couplet (two-line stanza). The rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet is as follows:
Themes and Subjects
Shakespearean sonnets often explore themes of love, beauty, time, and mortality. These sonnets often delve into the complexities of human emotion and the passage of time, making them both timeless and relatable. When writing a sonnet in the traditional form, consider the themes and subjects that are commonly found in Shakespearean sonnets to maintain the authenticity and essence of the form.
- Love: Love is a central theme in many Shakespearean sonnets. Whether it’s unrequited love, the passage of time on love, or the complexities of love, this theme is a common thread in these timeless poems.
- Beauty: Sonnets often explore the concept of beauty, whether it’s the beauty of nature, a loved one, or the passage of time on beauty.
- Time and Mortality: The passage of time and mortality are recurring themes in Shakespearean sonnets. These poems often reflect on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of mortality.
How to Write a Shakespearean Sonnet
Now that we understand the structure and themes of a Shakespearean sonnet, let’s explore how to write one using the traditional form. Follow these steps to craft a Shakespearean sonnet:
- Choose a Theme or Subject: Select a theme or subject that resonates with you and aligns with the common themes found in Shakespearean sonnets.
- Follow the Structure: Write 14 lines of iambic pentameter, following the ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme.
- Use Figurative Language: Employ literary devices such as metaphor, simile, and personification to add depth and imagery to your sonnet.
- Explore Emotion: Delve into the complexities of human emotion related to your chosen theme or subject. Consider the nuances of love, beauty, time, and mortality.
- Revise and Refine: After drafting your sonnet, revise and refine the language, meter, and imagery to ensure it flows smoothly and evokes the intended emotions.
Examples of Shakespearean Sonnets
To better understand the traditional form and themes of Shakespearean sonnets, it’s helpful to explore examples of these timeless poems. Here are two famous Shakespearean sonnets as examples:
Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
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.
Writing a sonnet using the traditional Shakespearean sonnet form can be a rewarding and enriching experience. By understanding the structure, rhyme scheme, and common themes found in Shakespearean sonnets, poets can craft timeless and evocative verses that resonate with readers. Whether exploring themes of love, beauty, time, or mortality, the Shakespearean sonnet form provides a poetic framework that has endured for centuries.
Aspiring poets can draw inspiration from the classic examples of Shakespearean sonnets and incorporate their own unique perspectives and emotions into their verses. By following the guidelines and embracing the artistry of the form, writers can create sonnets that honor the tradition of Shakespearean poetry while adding their own creative flair.
Ultimately, the traditional Shakespearean sonnet form offers a timeless and structured canvas for poets to express their emotions, thoughts, and observations through the beauty of language and meter.