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Consider the sonnet as a verse form. With examples compare the Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets and show developments in this form to the twentieth century.

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Lara Finnegan 20th January 2000 Consider the sonnet as a verse form. With examples compare the Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets and show developments in this form to the twentieth century. The first sonnets were written by a Sicilian lawyer named Giacomo da Lentino, during the first part of the thirteenth century. The form soon became very popular and was publicised through the works of many well-known Italian poets, such as Cavalcanti, Dante and Petrarch, thus becoming known as the Petrarchan sonnet form. It soon spread through Europe and finally to England during the sixteenth century, through Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who developed it slightly. Soon after, Shakespeare realised the limitations of such a strict format and therefore developed and changed it further, creating the Shakespearean form. However, not everyone agreed with his indifference towards tradition; John Milton and Wordsworth soon reverted to the strictly disciplined Petrarchan form again, preferring it to the relatively 'free and easy' style of Shakespeare. Through time, many poets have experimented with different styles and techniques, and by the twentieth century, writers such as Elizabeth Jennings wrote such undisciplined poetry that it could only be recognised as a sonnet by the fourteen lines. The word 'sonnet' comes from the Italian word sonnetto, meaning 'little sound' or 'song,' and the standard form consists of fourteen lines and a strict but variable rhyme scheme. ...read more.


that the sonnet will be a comparison between his lover and summertime. He then says how his lover is "more lovely and more temperate" than summer, and points out that it has many imperfections and only lasts for a very short time. This idea is explored more fully in the second quatrain. Shakespeare points out the negative aspects of summer, such as, "Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines," giving us the general impression that there is hardly ever a day when some variable is not quite right. In the third quatrain there is a shift in focus, showing the Petrarchan turn of thought after the octave. Shakespeare says that his lover is better than summer, because his beauty is constant, and can defeat time because it is immortal, as we see where it says, "Nor shall death brag thou wandr'st in his shade." This poses the question: how can his beauty be made immortal? Our answer is found in the rhyming couplet at the end: "So long as men can breath or eyes can see. So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." Another example of the Shakespearean form is sonnet CXVI - "Let me not." This sonnet, unlike earlier ones, is not written for or about anybody. ...read more.


Even the content is not what one would expect from a Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet - the sonnet is about ghosts instead of change, love or time. We can tell that it is a sonnet, however, by the fact that it has fourteen lines. "Ghosts" is a poem about Elizabeth Jennings' ideas concerning why ghosts haunt houses and what they do. The first line states that ghosts "those houses haunt in which we leave/ Something undone," meaning that they only haunt places where life has been unsatisfactory or incomplete. She claims that ghosts are not recognised by the people they haunt, as we see where it says, "Ghosts do not haunt with any face/ That we have known." They also "thrust at us/ Our own omissions," meaning that they point out the things that we have not done in our lives, but perhaps should have. Everything that we could not bring ourselves to admit, do or say, they make us recognise and 'face up to.' The sonnet has been changed and developed a great deal since its first construction in Italy. Many sonneteers had something to contribute to this development, among them Thomas Wyatt, the Earl of Surrey, Shakespeare, John Milton, and twentieth century writers such as Elizabeth Jennings. The original octave and sestet of the Petrarchan form were changed to three quatrains and a rhyming couplet, content and the number of syllables in each line were changed, and the only variable that stayed constant throughout history was the fourteen lines. ...read more.

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