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Sonnet 1. My tongue -tied Muse in manners holds her still, Sonnet Themes in the Sonnets Although love is the overarching theme of the sonnets, there are three specific underlying themes: 1 the brevity of life, 2 the transience of beauty, and 3 the trappings of desire. The first two of these underlying themes are the focus of the early sonnets addressed to the young man in particular Sonnets where the poet argues that having children to carry on one's beauty is the only way to conquer the ravages of time.

In the middle sonnets of the young man sequence the poet tries to immortalize the young man through his own poetry the most famous examples being Sonnet 18 and Sonnet Read on Sonnets in the Spotlight Sonnet is the poet's pragmatic tribute to his uncomely mistress, commonly referred to as the dark lady because of her dun complexion. I will also discuss a few other categories of objectives that this curriculum addresses. The first objective is to introduce the concept of form in poetry and its importance to the poem's overall impact and how it aids in communicating the poem's message.

By gaining an understanding of the impact of the sonnet's form, students will be open to and on the lookout for form in other poems. There are several objectives related to the study of the sonnet specifically.

The most basic is that students will learn the rhyme schemes and formal structures of both the Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets. Students will be able to distinguish between the two forms when reading sonnets. Students will have some sense of the long history of the sonnet and will place various sonnets and sonnet writers on a timeline.

Students will be able to articulate qualities of the sonnet that go beyond structure. Another general area of objectives relates to close reading or explication of poetry. Although the overriding theme of this curriculum is form, students will also be asked to interpret the poems generally.

Until recently, all of my energies concerning the reading of poetry with middle school aged children focused on making poetry accessible and non-threatening. I did insist that students use textual evidence to support their interpretations and always attempted to use the language of poetry in discussions.

By This Poet

Recently, I have tried to incorporate even more vocabulary and formal interpretive models into discussion formats. This is in response to clearer guidelines given by the state of Pennsylvania regarding expectations. It is also a nod to the idea that many of my students will be involved in AP courses in high school and early exposure to the kinds of rigorous poetic interpretations required in those classes can only be beneficial.

Two objectives concerning reading and interpreting poetry are: students will build and use a vocabulary of poetic terms and students will use textual evidence to support interpretations of poetry. A final general area of objectives relates to the writing of poetry. When students write their own sonnets they will gain a more intimate relationship with the form. The writing of original poetry meets many objectives for adolescents related to literacy, aesthetic development, and awareness of self and the world.

In the category of literacy, writing poetry helps students in all genres of writing. Through writing poetry students will gain an understanding of the importance of careful and deliberate word choice. Students will learn to play with phrase construction, and learn that lines and sentences need careful attention. By writing poetry students will increase their fluency and develop metaphorical thought processes. When writing poetry young writers will take chances and risks, which will strengthen all of their writing.

Adolescent poets will not only polish skills of observation as they examine the external world, but will connect with their inner worlds as well. When writing poetry students access their intellects and emotions at the same time. This unit addresses several standards that have been set forth by the Pittsburgh Public Schools in the category of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. All students read and use a variety of methods to make sense of various kinds of complex text.

All students respond orally and in writing to information and ideas gained by reading narrative and informational texts and use the information and ideas to make decisions and solve problems. All students write for a variety of purposes, including to narrate, to inform, and to persuade. All students exchange information orally, including asking and answering questions appropriately and promoting effective group communications.

All students compose and make oral presentations for each academic area of study. Even though we think of the sonnet as the great traditional English form, it originated in Italy.

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Studying the Sonnet: An Introduction to the Importance of Form in Poetry

The word sonnet comes from the Italian word, sonneto, meaning "little song". There is controversy among historians concerning the actual originator of the sonnet, but once devised, the form became very popular in Italy. Dante and Francesco Petrarch are credited with perfecting the form.

Petrarch, a Tuscan, published his Canzoniere, which contained sonnets, most of them about an idealized lover named Laura. The form created in Italian is known as the Petrarchan sonnet. It took several hundred years for the sonnet to take hold in England. Two young poets are credited with bringing the form to England after studying and traveling in Italy in the mid 's: Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

They each published very fine sonnets, and the form began to gain popularity. Wyatt's sonnet, "Whoso to hunt," is often considered to be one of the best. Both Wyatt and Surrey changed the Italian form and the result was what is now called the Shakespearean sonnet.

Shakespeare’s plays and poems

Changes to the sonnet made by Spenser resulted in a third category of sonnet named after him; the Spenserian sonnet. This form never gained the popularity of the Shakespearean and Petrarchan forms. John Milton, writing in the 17th century, followed Spenser, Shakespeare and Donne and was an important figure in the history of the sonnet, although few other poets were writing sonnets during his life.

Milton, best known for having written the epic poem Paradise Lost, is considered by some to be one of the greatest poets of the English language. After Milton, the form became almost extinct. Richard West". For a long period the sonnet remained an unpopular form but was revived again in the Romantic period, which is generally considered to span the years of Several poets are given credit for calling attention to the sonnet during this time period.

William Lisle Bowles, a vicar's son, toured northern England in the s, and then wrote an influential collection of which was admired by Samuel Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and a large public. Charlotte Smith was an influential female sonnet writer during this time.

A colorful figure, Helen Maria Williams, also influenced Wordsworth. She was a religious and a supporter of and of the ideals of the. She was even imprisoned in during the. Wordsworth wrote a poem for her in Although many sonnet writers of his day influenced him, William Wordsworth is credited with bringing the sonnet back to life and restoring its immense popularity during this period.

Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats also led the list of sonnet writers during this time period. A brother and sister, Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, helped to maintain the sonnet's presence in the 19th century. The Rossetti family read widely in Italian literature and used the sonnet as a literary exercise. Two other poets of this time period, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and George Meredith, wrote sonnet sequences series of related sonnets about romantic relationships.

Career and Creation of the Globe

Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese express passionate desire and Meredith's Modern Love charts a disintegrating relationship between a man and wife. During the 18th and 19th centuries, sonnet writers used both the Shakespearian and Petrarchan forms, and it may be that the Petrarchan form was used more. Gerard Manley Hopkins was also an important figure in the 19th century and may have been the most original sonneteer of this time period. He was not widely known during his life. Because his work became recognized during the 20th century, his innovations to the sonnet are thought to have influenced modern poets.

White, , pp. Certainly I hope that my students learn the basic rhyme schemes of the sonnet and its formal aspects.

But I want them also to gain some understanding of its other qualities, since one of the underlying objectives of this unit is to develop an appreciation of form as it relates to the overall impact of the poem. This is what C. Johnson wrote in in Forms of English Poetry. The sonnet's length requires the poet to be concise. Paul Fry suggests that "The sonnet is a maximum thought unit. In other words, when a thought or train of thought gets any longer e. The sonnet has also attracted poets because its exacting structure challenges them to solve an intellectual puzzle. A question of categorizing the sonnet as a lyric poem or as a dramatic poem arises as one investigates scholarly writing on the sonnet.

Many textbook definitions call the sonnet a lyric poem, and it does fit the definition of being a fairly short poem that expresses the personal mood, feeling or thoughts of a single speaker. But the drama of the sonnet comes with the change of thought that often occurs. White and Rosen state that, "It is far more logical in structure, more precise in thought, more concise and unified in both substance and design than the ordinary lyric.

Jennifer Ann Wagner, in her book A Moment's Monument: Revisionary Poetics and the Nineteeth-Century English Sonnet, explains how William Wordsworth viewed the sonnet not as a form that limits the poet, but instead spoke of "the way the infinite can be contained in the finite; the way large ambition can be contained in a small form; and the way in which the constraints of this form force a poet to reflect on the nature of poetic form generally…" She goes on to explain Wordsworth's view of the sonnet as synecdoche, a reference to a part in place of the whole.

Wagner, p. For the purposes of our study here, there are two major forms of the sonnet and one minor form. They all contain 14 lines. Traditionally, sonnets are written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a rhythmical pattern and is the template or pattern for a sonnet's poetic line.

The "iambic" part means that the rhythm goes from an unstressed syllable to a stressed one, as happens in words like divine, caress, bizarre, and delight. The "pentameter" part means that this iambic rhythm, which is a "foot," is repeated five times. A fun exercise for teaching iambic pentameter to children can be found at the Folger Shakespeare Library website, which is listed in the bibliography of this unit.

Suggestions are provided for encouraging students to stomp out the pattern as well as speak in the pattern. The Petrarchan, or Italian sonnet, consists of an octave of eight lines or two quatrains and a sestet of six lines or two tercets. The rhyme scheme of the octave is ababcdcd and the rhyme scheme of the sestet varies in many ways. A chart that identifies 18 of them with examples for each can be found in an article written by William Sharpe on the Sonnet Central website.


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This distinct break between the two parts of the Petrarchan sonnet, sometimes called the turn, encourages the poet to present a subject in the octave and reflect on it in the sestet. In some sonnets these two parts take on the qualities of a proposal and a response or a problem and a resolution.

Sonnets by Shmoop

Frances Mayes says that the sestet "resolves or consolidates or reflects on the concerns of the octave.