Shakespeare : Sonnet 18

The following content is based on a poem by W.Shakespeare (Sonnet 18)

Objective :
Developing a basic knowledge of text analysis tools and writing practice in the context of a major literary piece.

Type of material : Literature
Estimated Time :  5 / 6 hours

Part 1

A definition

A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line.
It originated in Italy in the 13th Century. One of the most famous “sonneteers”was Petrarch.


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18)William Shakespeare – 1564-1616

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.

Ex 1
Determine the structure of this sonnet by giving a letter name to each line…
One letter = one rhyme, for instance, the first four lines are

Key Notion

The iambic pentameter is very representative of traditional English Poetry.
Iambic : unstressed syllable + stressed syllable
Pentameter :  5 iambic ‘patterns’
Here below, the apostrophe represents the stress
[ __ ‘__ __ ‘__ __ ‘__ __ ‘__ __ ‘__   ]

The last part of a sonnet (here, a ‘couplet’) generally introduce a ‘volta’.

A volta is an unexpected turn in the development of the poem. 

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