Thursday, December 29, 2011

Petrarchan Sonnet and Shakespearean Sonnet

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1. Brief introduction to Petrarchan sonnet and Shakespearean sonnet.

2. History of Petrarchan sonnet and Shakespearean sonnet.

3. Stylistic features and analysis of Shakespeare's sonnet

In the late 1500s it was fashionable for English gentleman authors to write sonnets, i.e. lyric poems composed of fourteen lines, following one or another of several set rhyme-schemes. The sonnet is composed with a formal rhyme scheme, expressing different thoughts, moods, or emotions, sometimes summed up in the last lines of the poem.

It is generally recognized that the sonnet has two characteristic sonnet types the Italian (Petrarchan) and the English (Shakespearean).

William Shakespeares first and second years in London were spent writing in the Petrarchan style. The Petrarchan sonnet has an eight line stanza, or octave, and six-line stanza, or sestet. The octave has two quatrains, rhyming abba, abba, but avoiding a couplet; the first quatrain gives the theme, and the second develops it. The sestet is built on two or three different rhymes; the first three lines reflect on the theme, and the last three lines bring the whole poem to an end.

Actually the sonnet, as a form of poem, developed in Italy probably in the thirteenth century. Sonnet, also called sonnetto which is an Italian word for little sound. The sonnet is a fourteen line poem written in iambic pentameter. An iamb is a short beat - long beat rhythm. It has also been called the trough and crest unit because of its shorthand scansion marks. The first word or syllable is unstressed while the second is stressed, as in the cat or delight. So a line in a sonnet has five of these iambs. For instance, the curfew tolls the knell of parting day is a line in iambic pentameter.

The primary sonnet form was perfected by Petrarch in the fourteenth century. One octave (8 lines) addresses one theme or thought, turning on the volta or shift, and the poem concludes dramatically in one sestet (6 lines). The rhyme scheme for the octave is generally abba abba while the sestet can rhyme as either cd cd cd or cde cde.

Sonnet form one octave and one sestet

Rhyme scheme abba abba cd cd cd or abba abba cde cde. Because Petrarch achieved this more than 200 years before English poets even knew about them. Therefore, English readers named the sonnet as Petrarchan sonnet after his name. Charles Gayley explains this twofold division of the Italian sonnet as The octave bears the burden; a doubt, a problem, a reflection, a query, an historical statement, a cry of indignation or desire, a Vision of the ideal. The sestet eases the load, resolves the problem or doubt, answers the query, solaces the yearning, realizes the vision. It might be understood that the octave presents the narrative, states the proposition or raises a question; the sestet clearly expresses the narrative by making an abstract comment, applies the proposition, or solves the problem. It is obvious that the Italian sonnet has very strict form. But as a matter of fact English poets have not followed the Italian rules strictly. In fact they made many changes. English poets do not always divide the sonnet into the octave and sestet parts and they also often vary the rhyme-scheme. But according to the rules, no Italian sonnet allows more than five rhymes. Most of them are iambic pentameter , but it is also true that certain poets have experimented with hexameter and other meters.

Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, were among the first to introduce the sonnet into England. Thomas Wyatt, who translated Petrarchan sonnets and left over thirty examples of his own in English. And Surrey modifies the Italian form of sonnet. Gradually the Italian sonnet pattern was changed.

The English (Shakespearean) sonnet, on the other hand, is so different from the Italian (though it grew from that form) as to permit of a separate classification. Instead of the octave and sestet divisions, this sonnet characteristically embodies four divisions three quatrains (each with a rhyme-scheme of its own) and a rhymed couplet. Thus the typical rhyme-scheme for the English sonnet is

abab cdcd efef gg.

The couplet at the end is usually a commentary on the foregoing, an epigrammatic close. The Spenserian sonnet combines the Italian and the Shakespearean forms, using three quatrains and a couplet but employing linking rhymes between the quatrains, thus

abab bcbc cdcd ee.

Certain qualities common to the sonnet as a form should be noted. Its definite restrictions make it a challenge to the artistry of the poet and call for all the technical skill at the poets command. The more or less set rhyme patterns occurring regularly within the short space of fourteen lines afford a pleasant effect on the ear of the reader, and can create truly musical effects. The rigidity of the form avoids a too great economy or too great waste of words. Emphasis is placed on exactness and perfection of expression. And since Shakespeare attained fame for the greatest poems of this modified type, his name has often been given to the English form. So this English form of sonnet is usually called Shakespearean sonnet.

Shakespeare in all his life wrote altogether 154 sonnets. It is commonly believed that Shakespeare wrote his sonnets between 1592 and 1598. They are roughly divided into two groups; sonnets 1-16 are the young man sonnets, while 17-154 are called the dark lady sonnets (Halliday).

Shakespeare's Sonnet

Shall I compare thee to a summers day? Shall I compare you to a summers day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate You are more lovely and more delightful

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, Rough winds shake the much loved buds of May

And summers lease hath all too short a date And summer is far too short

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, At times the sun is too hot,

And often is his gold complexion dimmd; Or often goes behind the clouds;

And every fair from fair sometime declines, And everything that is beautiful will lose its beauty,

By chance or natures changing course untrimmd; By chance or by natures planned out course;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade But your youth shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; Nor lose the beauty that you possess;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderst in his shade, Nor will death claim you for his own,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest Because in my eternal verse you will live forever

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long as there are people on this earth,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee. So long will this poem live on, giving you immortality.

Shakespeare's sonnet 18 is perhaps the best known and the most well-loved of all 154 poems. It is by far one of the most interesting poems, which is generally recognized as one of the most moving lyric poems among all his sonnet poems. It is also one of the most straightforward in language and intent. The stability of love and its power to immortalize the poetry and the subject of that poetry is the theme. There is great use of imagery within the sonnet. It is mainly due to the simplicity and loveliness of the poem's praise of the beloved young man that it has guaranteed its place in readers mind and heart. The speaker of the poem opens with a question that is addressed to the beloved Shall I compare thee to a summers day? This question is comparing him to the summer time of the year. It is during this time when the flowers are blooming, trees are full of leaves, the weather is warm, and it is generally thought of as an enjoyable time during the year. The following eleven lines in the poem are also dedicated to similar comparisons between the beloved and summer days. In lines and , the speaker explains what mainly separates the young man from the summers day He is more lovely and more temperate. Summers days tend toward extremes they are sometimes shaken by rough winds (line) which happens and is not always as welcoming as the young man. However, in line 4, the speaker gives the feeling again that the summer months are often too short by saying And summer's lease hath too short a date. In the summer days, the sun, the eye of heaven (line 5), often shines too hot, or too dim, his gold complexion dimmed (line 6), that is there are many hot days during the summer but soon the sun begins to set earlier at night because autumn is approaching. Summer is moving along too quickly for the speaker, its time here needs to be longer, and it also means that the chilling of autumn is coming upon us because the flowers will soon be withering, as every fair from fair sometime declines. (Line 7) The final portion of the sonnet tells how the beloved differs from the summer in various respects. His beauty will be the one that lasts forever, Thy eternal summer shall not fade. (Line ), and never end or die. In the couplet at the bottom, the speaker explains how that the beloveds beauty will accomplish this everlasting life unlike a summer. And it is because his beauty is kept alive in this poem, which will last forever. It will live as long as men can breathe or eyes can see. (Line 1) On the surface, the poem is simply a statement of praise about the beauty of the beloved young man and perhaps summer to the speaker is sometimes too unpleasant with the extremes of windiness and heat that go along with it. However, the beloved in the poem is always mild and temperate by his nature and nothing at all like the summer. It is incidentally brought to life as being described as the eye of heaven with its gold complexion. The imagery throughout the sonnet is simple and attainable to the reader, which is a key factor in understanding the poem. Then the speaker begins to describe the summer again with the darling buds of May giving way to the summer's lease, springtime moving into the warmth of the summer. The speaker then starts to promise to talk about this beloved, which is so great and awing that he is to live eternally in this sonnet. The beloved is so great that the speaker will even go as far as to say that, So long as men breathe, or eyes can see, the young man will live. The language is almost too simple when comparing it to the rest of Shakespeare's sonnets; it is not heavy with alliteration or verse, and nearly every line is its own self-contained clause, almost every line ends with some punctuation giving a pause. But it is just due to this that makes Sonnet 18 stand out for the rest of the sonnets. It is much more attainable to understand and it allows the reader to fully understand the greatness of this truly beloved is that he may live forever in this sonnet. An important theme of the sonnet, in general, is the power of the speakers poem to defy time and last forever. And so by doing this it is then carrying the beauty of the beloved down to future generations and eventually for eternity. The beloveds eternal summer shall not fade quickly because it is embodied in the sonnet So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, (line 1) the speaker writes in the couplet, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee. (Line 14) With this point, the speaker is able to accomplish what many have done in poetry and that is to give the gift of an eternal life to someone that they believe is special and outshines everyone else around them. It is probably because of the physical beauty that the speaker can see, or to some more extent, because of the internal beauty as seen in line, Thou art more lovely and more temperate, that the beloved is deserving to live on forever.

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