Lecture 8: Shakespeare – The Sonnet

Shakespeare’s Sonnet


Who will believe my verse in time to come
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Though yet heav’n knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say, “This poet lies—
Such heavenly touches ne’er touched earthly faces.”
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be termed a poet’s rage
And stretchèd meter of an ?ntique song;
??But were some child of yours alive that time,
??You should live twice: in it and in my rhyme.

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 dimm’d; ?And every fair from fair sometime declines,?By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;?But thy eternal summer shall not fade?Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;?Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,?When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st; ? So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,? So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 

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 ruin’d 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, ?Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest. ?In me thou see’st 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 nourish’d by. ?   This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, ?   To love that well which thou must leave ere long. 

– A sonnet is a 14-line ten-syllable poem about love.
– It originated in Italy by Dante and, more famously, Petrarch.
– The Italian rhyme scheme of the sonnet was ABBAABBACDECDE
– The first 8 lines are called “Octave, the remaining 6 lines “sestet”
– A Petrarchan sonnet has no couplet.
– Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard brought the sonnet to England.
– They developed and adapted the form of the sonnet.

Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets
– The rhyme scheme of Shakespeare’s sonnets is: ABABCDCDEFEFGG.
– Shakespeare’s sonnet is 3 quatrains and a couplet.
– The 3 quatrains develop the argument or elaborate on a problem
– and the ingenious couplet gives a closure or resolves the tension.
– They are poems of love and loss, of loneliness and change, the passing of time and immortality of poetry.
– Thus, the sonnet’s form is rigid/tight and Shakespeare’s are very disciplined.
– Does this structure attempt to give order to the disorder/chaos of life?
– Was Shakespeare trying to outsmart and outlive/challenge life?
– The sonnet examines the ideal versus the harsh reality of life.
– Thus, the neatness of the sonnet’s form contrasts with the fact that life does not follow an ordered pattern.
– In a sonnet, the form and the meaning are closely linked.