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8/29/2018

What is a sonnet? What are the elements of a sonnet in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet-XVIII”?



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Definition of Sonnet:

A sonnet is a short lyric poem of fourteen iambic pentameter lines linked by an intricate rhyme scheme. It is a lyric because it can be tuned to a lyre, a musical instrument. Each of  its fourteen lines consists of five feet (also known as metres) for which it is called pentameter. Again, each of the feet consists of an unaccented and an accented syllables (or sound units) for which it is called iambic.


Classification of Sonnet:

The Shakespearean sonnet, named after William Shakespeare, is one of the three types of sonnets, the other two types being petrarchan or Italian and Spenserian. The petrarchan sonnet, named after the 14th century Italian poet, petrarch, has two parts: an octave, the first eight lines, and the sestet, the last six lines. The rhyme scheme of a petrarchan octave is abba abba and that of a  sestet is either cd cd cd or cde cde. The Spenserian sonnet is named after an English poet Edmund Spenser. Its rhyme scheme is abab bcbc cdcd ee. The Shakespearean sonnet rhymes as abab cdcd efef gg.


Sonnet-XVIII as a Sonnet:

The sonnet in question is a Shakespearean  sonnet. It has all the common elements of the sonnet as well as the particular elements of a typical Shakespearean sonnet.  The sound it produces  has the pattern of music. So it is a lyric because a lyric has to musical. It has fourteen lines. Each of its lines has five feet or metres. Each foot has an unaccented  and an accented syllable. It can be explained in the following lines:
Shall I / compare / t hee to/ a sum/mer’s day?
Thou art / more love / ly and /more tem/ perate:

The regular beat of unaccented and accented syllables in each foot of the lines imparts to them internal rhythm. Similarly, the sounds at the end of the lines are intricately woven by using the rhyme schem abab cdcd efef gg. This also adds to its music. So it is a short lyric poem of fourteen iambic pentameter lines.

As the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg indicates, a Shakespearean sonnet is divided into three quatrain followed by a couplet. The fourteen lines of “Sonnet-18” are also arranged in three q quatrains and a couplet. The beauty of the friend concerned has been introduced through a comparison in the first four lines. In the second and third quatrains the idea has been developed through contrast. The concluding two lines make a comment on what has already been said about the friend’s immortal beauty.

Conclusion:
It may, therefore, be  concluded that “Sonnet-18” bears all the marks of a Shakespearean sonnet. It is, in fact, one of the well-known sonnets of a long sequence of 154 sonnets composed by Shakespeare.

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