Sonnets are a type of poetry that originated in Italy in the 13th century and later became popular in England during the Renaissance. They consist of 14 lines and follow a specific rhyme scheme and meter. The most common form of sonnet is the Shakespearean sonnet, also known as the English sonnet, which is composed of three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a final couplet (two-line stanza). The rhyme scheme for a Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, where the last two lines form a rhyming couplet. Sonnets are often used to express themes of love, beauty, nature, and mortality, and they have been employed by many notable poets throughout history, including William Shakespeare, John Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Pablo Neruda.
Here’s an example of one of John Donne’s famous sonnets, “Death, be not proud”:
Death, be not proud
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Why is “Death, be not proud” a sonnet?
“Death, be not proud” is a sonnet because it is a poem of 14 lines that follows a specific rhyme scheme and meter. In this case, John Donne’s sonnet is written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line contains ten syllables with a pattern of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (iambic meter). The rhyme scheme of this sonnet is ABBA ABBA CDCDCD, which is typical of an Italian sonnet. However, instead of ending with a final couplet, Donne’s sonnet ends with a triumphant couplet that subverts the usual expectations of the form. This use of a unique rhyme scheme and the ending couplet is characteristic of the “holy sonnets” of John Donne, which explore themes of spirituality, mortality, and divine love.
William Shakespeare wrote a collection of 154 sonnets that were published in 1609. These sonnets are considered some of the finest poetry in the English language and are renowned for their intricate wordplay, profound emotional depth, and timeless themes of love, beauty, mortality, and the nature of art and poetry itself.
Shakespeare’s sonnets follow a traditional form, consisting of 14 lines in iambic pentameter with a specific rhyme scheme. The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man, while the remaining 28 are addressed to a “dark lady.”
Shakespeare’s sonnets continue to be widely read and studied by scholars, students, and poetry lovers around the world.
What is the most popular sonnet of William Shakespeare?
William Shakespeare’s sonnets are all highly regarded, and each one offers something unique and valuable to readers. However, if we had to choose one of his most popular sonnets, it would likely be Sonnet 18, often referred to by its opening line, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” This sonnet is beloved for its beautiful imagery and timeless declaration of love, with the speaker comparing his beloved to a summer’s day and ultimately concluding that their beauty will be preserved forever in the poem’s lines.
Another one of Shakespeare’s popular sonnets is Sonnet 116, which begins “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments.” This sonnet is often read at weddings and is admired for its exploration of the nature of true love and the enduring strength of a committed relationship.
However, it’s important to note that all of Shakespeare’s sonnets are worth exploring and each has its own unique qualities that make it special and enduring.