Readers may find themselves having trouble figuring out which play is which considering that the poet never mentions any of them by name. They use simple statements that if taken in a different context, might not even remind the reader of Shakespeare. But, together, it’s clear that ‘Shakespearean Sonnet’ is focused on a specific subject matter.
Explore Shakespearean Sonnet
‘Shakespearean Sonnet’ by R. S. Gwynn is an entertaining and creative poem about Shakespeare’s plays.
This Shakespearean sonnet celebrates Shakespeare’s plays. Each line alludes to a play by summarizing the absolute basics of its plot. Never does the author specifically mention a play by name. Throughout, the poet refers to Othello, Macbeth, Richard III, Twelfth Night, and more.
You can read the full poem here.
A man is haunted by his father’s ghost.
Two couples get lost on a summer night.
In the first four lines of the poem, the speaker begins with the first of fourteen allusions to Shakespeare’s sonnets. The first line is perhaps one of the easiest to recognize. It refers to Hamlet and the classic scene in which the main character is talking to a ghost who purports to be his father. This scene is the instigator for the rest of the play, inspiring Hamlet to seek vengeance against his uncle who killed his father.
The second line is another very clear reference. This time, the speaker is thinking about Romeo and Juliet, the story of a boy and girl who “love” while their families fight.
Line three is about Macbeth, often referred to as “the Scottish play.” Macbeth is the host who murders King Duncan. Then finally, the fourth line is a reference to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A hunchback murders all who block his way.
A noble Moor has doubts about his wife.
The references are slightly harder to place in the next quatrain. Here, the author speaks about Richard II, Richard I, Henry IV Part I, and Othello. The word “moor” in the fourth line is a clear signal towards Othello, who is constantly referred to as a “moor” throughout the play.
The word “hunchback” works in the same way for the first line, alluding to the classic image of Richard III. The second line is one of the hardest in the poem. It refers to Richard II, a history play written around 1595. The third line refers to Henry IV Part I, Prince Henry and Falstaff are the “prince” and “fat man” referenced in this line.
An English king decides to conquer France.
A duke learns that his best friend is a she.
A sexy queen is bitten by a snake.
The ninth line is a reference to Henry V, featuring the same prince, now king, referenced in line seven of the poem. Twelfth Night is the subject of line ten and As You Like It the play mentioned in line eleven. It takes place in the Forest of Arden.
The twelfth line refers to King Lear, the thirteenth to Julius Caesar, and the fourteenth and final line to Antony and Cleopatra.
Structure and Form
‘Shakespearean Sonnet’ by R. S. Gwynn is, as the title suggests, a Shakespearean sonnet. It alludes to the works of Shakespeare but it also takes the form of the sonnet form he popularized. The lines rhyme in a pattern of ABABCDCDEFEFGG and follow iambic pentameter. The latter refers to the number of beats per line. In this case, there are five sets of two beats in each line. The first is unstressed, and the second is stressed.
Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Imagery: the use of particularly interesting descriptions. For example, “A sexy queen is bitten by a snake.”
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example: “families fight” in line two and “prince” and “pay” in line seven.
- Allusion: a reference to something outside the scope of the poem. Often, it is referred to but not fully described by the author. It may require the reader to do additional research to figure out what they’re talking about. In this case, each line alludes to a different Shakespearean play and the structure of the play alludes to Shakespeare’s sonnets.
The tone is descriptive. The speaker doesn’t take one opinion or another towards Shakespeare’s plays. Instead, he’s simply listing them through vague allusion-rich statements.
The purpose is to explore Shakespeare’s plays. The poem is devoted to them, suggesting the speaker appreciates them and wants the reader to appreciate them too.
The speaker is someone who knows Shakespeare’s plays well. He is able to define them through statements that rely entirely on allusion. None of the plays’ names are listed.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Shakespearean Sonnet’should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘Sonnet 116’ by William Shakespeare – a commonly recognized Shakespearean sonnet. It explores the nature of love and what “true love” is.
- ‘On Shakespeare. 1630’ by John Milton – describes inappropriate monuments to the life of William Shakespeare and what the only true sepulchre consists of.
- ‘All the World’s a Stage‘ by William Shakespeare – a well-known monologue found in William Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’. This speech of Jaques explores the seven ages of man and their implications.