Let's look at poetry with a VERY SPECIFIC FORM. . .

Published on Nov 22, 2015

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Let's look at poetry with a VERY SPECIFIC FORM. . .

What is an Elizabethan, English,
or Shakespearean sonnet?

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They are different names for the same thing.

  • Short and squatty
  • A specific form written in iambic pentameter
  • 14 lines, 3 quatrains, 1 final rhyming couplet
  • rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg
  • 1st presents the problem, 2nd & 3rd develop it, final couplet resolves it.
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the final couplet

there is a shift and humor or wit to solve the problem.

Uh oh. What is iambic pentameter?

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  • a unit of rhythm in poetry
  • two syllables, unstressed followed by a stressed 
  • Examples: beHOLD, aMUSE, aWAKE, reTURN
  • Iambic - the adjective form of iamb


  • This just means there are fives units within one line.
  • So, iambic pentameter means. . .
  • ta DA, ta DA, ta DA, ta DA, ta DA or. . . 
  • if MUsic BE the FOOD of LOVE, play ON
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Let's look at a sonnet:

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Sonnet 60

"Like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore"
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Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light, 5
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

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Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, taken together, are frequently described as a sequence;
divided into 2 sections

Sonnets 1-126 focus on a young man and the speaker's friendship with him

Sonnets 127-52 focus on the speaker's relationship with a woman.
The two concluding sonnets, 153 and 154, are free translations or adaptations of classical verses about Cupid

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The Challenge

Build your own sonnet with your team.
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Sonnet themes:

  • import of immortality
  • continuance of offspring through art
  • love as a compensation for failure or disappointment
  • ephemeral nature of things
  • time is the great destroyer
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