The sonnet has a long and distinguished history, dating back to the 14th century. It is one of the most famous verse forms in the English language, with over 1,000 examples written by poets worldwide. In this article, we will take a look at 11 of Shakespeare’s greatest sonnets: from his most famous (Sonnet 18) to some lesser-known gems that are still worth reading again!
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Shakespeare wrote many famous plays and poems. He was a great writer who had an incredible eye for detail regarding his work! Many people don’t know that the form we call “sonnet” today is actually from Italy in 16th century; however, this type of poem didn’t have as much variation back then due to strict rules about rhyme schemes or length.
What is a Shakespearian Sonnet?
A sonnet is a poetic form that originated in Italy during the Elizabethan era. The term “sonnet” comes from the Italian word, ‘sonetto’ which means song or little sound and was originally meant to be sung instead of reading silently.
It has been said that when Shakespeare first published his Sonnets, they were referred to as ‘Songs’, rather than poems; this speaks not only into their musical quality but also reveals how integral music was considered for performance of these works before modern times where it’s more common for them just be recited aloud without accompaniment (or even at all).
11 examples of Shakespearian Sonnets
Qualities of a Shakespearian sonnet
- They are 14 lines long.
- The structure consists of three quatrains (four-line parts) followed by one couplet (2 line part).
- The first four lines are called “sestet.”
- The last two lines are called a “couplet.”
- They are written in iambic pentameter with rhyming couplets.
- Follows an ABAB CDCD EFEF GG structure
What Is Iambic Pentameter?
Iambic pentameter is the rhythmic pattern Shakespeare loved to use in his plays. Iambic means “having two parts”, – so it has one soft beat, and one strong beat repeated five times.
How many sonnets did Shakespeare write?
The bearded playwright penned 154 sonnets that were published posthumously via his ‘quarto’ in 1609. The sonnets cover themes such as mortality, love, beauty and infidelity.
What is Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet?
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, which starts “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” is possibly the most famous ever. The bard makes an impassioned plea for his beloved with lines that are still beautiful today after 400 years of being read and translated by people across various cultures. Sonnet 18 is famous for its eloquently written language and how it deals with a universally feared thing, death.
Shakespeare’s work stands the test of time more so than other writers because his stories don’t just put a scenario before the audience and let it play out. Still, they constantly challenge onlookers to think about right vs wrong–even in grey areas. Ultimately, he wants you to explore whether people should live by reason or passion
For more poetry conversation here are the top 20 forms of poetry you should know. If you are looking for something a little more academic, here’s how to write a research paper in 11 easy steps.
About The Author
Webster is the founder and managing director at Pick Me Up Poetry. His creative journey began at an early age as an aspiring musician, and by 2013, he was the arts & culture facilitator for the University of Johannesburg. He is currently pursuing a Business Management degree with The University of South Africa and aspires to make PMUP a household name by 2025.