Shakespearean Sonnet

The Shakespearean sonnet follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG and uses iambic pentameter.

It is historically the most popular sonnet form. It is sometimes referred to as “Elizabethan sonnet” or “English sonnet,” but since Shakespeare used to with so much success, it became synonymous with his name after his death. The fourteen lines of a Shakespearean sonnet appear in one block of text or one stanza. The turn occurs between the final quatrain, or set of four lines, and the couplet. The couplet might conclude the poem or present the reader with an answer to a question posed in the rest of the poem.

Here is the text from one of William Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets.

Sonnet 18Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

[read the full analysis of ‘Sonnet 18‘ here]

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot, the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The poem follows a clear rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG. But, readers might note the half-rhymes in lines two and four. This is a common occurrence in Shakespeare’s work, as in the work of most poets. Some words do not rhyme perfectly, but that doesn’t significantly interrupt the pattern.

Some other famous Shakespearean sonnets are:

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