Monday, November 22, 2010

Week 3: Sonnet Assignment and Soliloquies

What is a sonnet? A sonnet is a 14 line poem that follows a specific pattern and meter. It was first introduced into literature by Francesco Petrarch and brought to England by Wyatt and Surrey. Shakespeare's sonnets are all 14 line poems, with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg, that is three quatrains of alternating rhyme, ending in a heroic couplet. The entire poem is written in iambic (a two syllable foot) pentameter (5 "feet" to a line), even the couplet. The couple is called heroic because it ends in a stressed syllable. Shakespeare's sonnets even appear occassionally in some of his plays. Other poets have written sonnets using differing rhyme patterns, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

We read and discussed Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer Day). In our discussion, we talked about how Shakespeare wrote these first 126 poems for a friend of his. We discussed how a poet may use words that appear to us as "romantic" to describe friendship, especially in the time of Shakespeare. And how words may have changed meaning from Shakespeare's time to now. For instance, Shakespeare uses the word "lovely" which today we commonly use to mean beautiful, pretty, etc. But the word lovely can be used to describe how much Shakespeare valued the friendship, rather than a description of the person, himself.

We also read and discussed Sonnet 116 (Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds), which attempts to define love. We also looked at St. Paul's definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7 (Love is patient, love is kind. . . . ) We talked about how they differed and how they were the same. Our assignment from this week is to reread Sonnet 116 and St. Paul and write an essay in which we compare and contrast the two.

To get ready for our next class, we discussed soliloquies. A soliloquy is similar to the "aside," except that it is usually longer. Look up the definition for soliloquy. To prepare for our next class, the students are to read Jaques's soliloquy from As You Like It. After reading, they are to write their first impressions and what they think Shakespeare is discussing. Some of the lines may be quite familiar to the students. When we come back, we will discuss the above and look at some literary devices found in this soliloquy. Then we will rewrite it.

Here is a link to a .pdf of the soliloquy: Printout Also, there is an interesting lesson plan at that seems interesting. I may do that one with the students, but it may be hard since we have only three. We will be doing a rewrite of the soliloquy where the students can write it over in their own words. I cannot find that particular lesson plan at, where I had originally gotten the idea about 3-4 years ago. If you click on the "Soliloquy" tab above, you will find resources to use.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Assignments for Week 2: Shakespeare's Sonnets

We did a fairly good job on the scavenger hunt. Click on the answers page to see how you did. The assignment is to write a brief biography on Shakespeare of at least one paragraph using what you learned. You will also need to read Sonnets 18 and 116 for the next lesson to become familiar with the language and meaning. has an article that gives the history of the sonnet, which can be found here.

To explore the rhythm of iambic pentameter, the Folger has a lesson plan that can be quite fun for students of any age here.

Rhyming scheme: Shakespeare's sonnets all follow the same rhyming scheme: There are three quatrains (sets of four lines), followed by a couplet. The scheme goes abab cdcd efef gg. Sonnets by other poets follow different schemes. Compare Shakespeare to Longfellow's Autumn. How does it differ?

Sonnet 18: Read Sonnet 18 - - first Shakespeare's and then the translation. What do you think Shakespeare is saying?

Sonnet 116: Do the same with Sonnet 116. What do you think Shakespeare is saying about love here?

We will be discussing the sonnets at our next class. Until then, have fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Before you get your hopes up and think that I am a Shakespeare afficianado, I need to point out that I am just a home school mom who would like to teach my children to have an appreciation for Shakespeare, one of the greatest and most studied playwrights. One of the great things about the age in which we live is the vast resources of the internet. Most of what I pull together for my kids, especially in regards to literature, come from resources on the internet. Alas, most will be the work of others, who are far more knowledgeable than I. I will list these resources as I use and find them.

That said, one of my favorite resource sites for Shakespeare, is the Folger Shakespeare Library, which also houses the The Folger Theatre. The Folger is located in Washington DC and has one of the largest collections of Shakespeare stuff on this side of the Atlantic, or perhaps the world as its website claims. This site, The Folger Library, is a wealth of information, lesson plans and fun things for kids to do. Please take time to browse it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Introduction and Week 1

This week, we are going to look at Shakespeare's life and his world. In order to get the kids to start thinking about Shakespeare, I found this "Scavenger Hunt" on-line at: The kids can use internet resources and library resources. A couple of good books for information are: Usborne's World of Shakespeare and Michael Rosen's Shakespeare: His Work and His World. A paper replica of the Globe Theatre is available at Print it out on cardstock. It is a lot of fine cutting, but can be done over a few days. I am not sure if there is a way to enlarge the image or not, but it would probably be a little easier to assemble.