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The Sonnets of Shakespeare

The sonnet is a type of poem with a very specific form. There are actually two types of sonnet: the Italian and the Shakespearean, but both consist of only fourteen lines.

Most of the Shakespearean sonnets are grouped into three "quatrains" (groups of four lines) followed by a rhyming couplet (two lines) and use the rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg.

The lines are written in "iambic pentameter." This means that they alternate soft and strong syllables (iambic) and are five beats long (pentameter).

Unrhymed iambic pentameter is called "blank verse" and is found in Shakespeare's plays.

'So fair / and foul / a day / I have / not seen'

'The course / of true / love nev-/-er did / run smooth' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

William Shakespeare composed 154 sonnets in his lifetime. The 154 sonnets can be formed three groups:

1. Twenty-six sonnets written mostly to a young man, 17 of them urging marriage.

2. One hundred and one sonnets, also written to a young man (probably the same young nobleman as in the first 26). These have a variety of themes, such as the beauty of the loved one; destruction of beauty; competition with a Rival Poet; despair about the absence of a loved one; and reaction toward the young man's coldness.

3. The remaining 27 sonnets are written mainly to a woman, popularly known as "The Dark Lady." Many students of Shakespeare's work believe that he had a love affair with this woman.

In 1592 and 1593 the plague in London was so severe that the theatres were closed. Shakespeare seems to have turned his creative energies to poetry as a result.

shakespeare-sonnets

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