The Sonnet 2012

The Sonnet
Presented by Shayne, Kenythe, Sarah, Chelsey, Julia
and Jenn
Provocative Questions
Throughout this presentation, we will be
addressing the following questions:
• How does the history of the sonnet influence
its subject matter?
• How does the volta influence the structure of
sonnets that have a romantic theme?
• What is the importance of the sonnet within a
The History of the Sonnet
Please visit this link in order to see our Prezi
regarding the History of the Sonnet:
History of the Sonnet
Popular Themes in Sonnets
• While sonnets are typically about romance, there are also other
themes that are popularly found in sonnets:
• Dangers of love and lust
– For example, some of Shakespeare’s sonnets deal with the
consequences of love
• Real beauty versus clichéd beauty
– Sonnet 130: compares a woman to negative things, to satirize the idea
of comparing women to celestial objects.
• Romantic love
– Most common theme
• Love for respected members of society (male)
– Revered people in society
• Love’s torments (Petrarch)
The Petrarchan Sonnet
• the basic meter of all sonnets is iambic
pentameter, where each line consists of ten
– five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables
– The rhythm in each line sounds like:
ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM
• it is broken up into two sections: the octave and
the sestet
• the octave is the first 8 lines of the sonnet, and
– the octave’s rhyming pattern is: a b b a a b b a
The Petrarchan Sonnet (Cont.)
• the sestet is the final 6 lines of the sonnet
– can have either two or three rhyming sounds, in a variety
of ways
– cdcdcd
• line 9 of the sonnet [the first line of the sestet] is called
the volta, and is an essential element of the sonnet
form because
– it signifies a change in subject matter
– can be in the form of a question or give a solution
Structural Analysis of London, 1802
William Wordsworth’s “London, 1802”
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
The Shakespearean Sonnet
• Like the Petrarchan sonnet, the Shakespearean
sonnet also consists of fourteen lines. However,
the structure is quite different.
• The Shakespearean sonnet contains three
quatrains of alternating rhyme (groups of four
lines), and ends with a rhyming couplet (two
• The rhyme scheme is: a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d, e, f, e, f,
g, g. In other words, every other ending word
rhymes, and the last two ending words rhyme as
The Shakespearean Sonnet (Cont.)
• Shakespearean sonnets are written in iambic
pentameter. This means that there are five pairs of
unstressed and stressed syllables in each line. An iamb
is a unit of rhythm which consists of an unstressed
syllable followed by a stressed syllable. These pairs
ultimately make up a line of ten syllables in each line of
Shakespearean sonnet.
• Like Petrarchan sonnets, Shakespearean sonnets also
have a volta, or turn, which is a dramatic shift or
change in point. Unlike voltas in Petrarchan sonnets,
placement is much more flexible, but is most often
found in line nine or in the couplet.
Structural Analysis of Sonnet 130
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.
(The volta is the first line of the couplet.)
The Sonnet Within a Sequence
First, the sonnet, a Petrarchan:
"With how sad steps..." Sonnet 31 – Sir Philip Sidney
With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What! may it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case:
I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call "virtue" there--ungratefulness?
The Sonnet Within a Sequence (Cont.)
There is an important connection between sonnets and their
sequences. Here, in what some texts refer to as Sir Philip Sidney’s
“With how sad steps,” can be interpreted as a lovesick speaker
addressing the moon, asking it if women in the heavens are as vain
and contemptuous as the women on Earth. However, in some texts,
especially in those with the entire sonnet sequence named Astrophel
and Stella, the sonnet is simply named “31,” and is part of a long
story as a whole. Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella has 108 sonnets and
eleven songs chronicling a love affair between the infatuated
Astrophel and the confused, indecisive, yet ideally perfect Stella. The
sonnet is able to stand alone, but it makes much more sense when
the reader has access to the story that comes before and after
Sonnet 31. That is the main idea of the sonnet sequence: each of the
poems is a snapshot of a bigger picture, just like “With how sad
steps,” focuses on that moment with Astrophel as he laments his
lover’s rejection.
Without the volta, which is integral to the structure of the poem, Sonnet 130
would have been an insult to the woman of his affection.
For sonnet 130, in the first quatrain, he uses color imagery to compare parts of
her body to objects in nature (ie. “Coral is far more red than her lips red.”) The
comparisons he’s using makes the object of the affection more realistic. The
second quatrain uses flower imagery, typically associated with beauty. In reality,
people are not flowers, so why are they expected to smell like one? “And in some
perfumes is there more delight / than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.”
At this point in the sonnet, his comparisons sound insulting, but he is only
contesting that she is not a flower. In the third quatrain, he speaks about the
quality of speech and the way she walks (she “treads on the ground”). He
continually makes comparisons, but does less than complements his love. The
couplet is the point: “I think my love as rare/ as any she belied with false
compare.” The words “and yet” signify as a volta and makes a shift in the tone of
the passage. He doesn’t use imagery anymore, he simply states the reasoning
behind the “insulting” comparisons. You can’t compare a real person to an object
in nature; He loves who she is, and that is true love. With that shift in tone, he is
able to redirect his thoughts to convey the actual meaning behind his
• Visit the University of Virginia’s interactive tool
to better understand metered poetry:
For Better For Verse

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