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 Folger.edu 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 folger.edu, 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.