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Sonnets. From Petrarch to Shakespeare. Goals. To know the origins and developments of the sonnet To know the form; Its themes Its popularity. ‘Yours will be...’. Old English poetry male dominated Middle English poetry: shift to emphasis on female glory

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From Petrarch to Shakespeare


  • To know the origins and developments of the sonnet

  • To know the form;

  • Its themes

  • Its popularity

Yours will be
‘Yours will be...’

  • Old English poetry male dominated

  • Middle English poetry: shift to emphasis on female glory

  • Courtly love: humble lover in religious adoration of a woman

  • Petrarch: 14th century


Petrarchan sonnet
Petrarchan sonnet

  • Octave (2 quatrains)

  • Sestet (3 tersets)

  • The problem in the octave finds its solution in the following sestet

  • 9th line: volta (turn); the sting is in the tail


ONE day I wrote her name upon the strand,

But came the waves and washèd it away:

Again I wrote it with a second hand,

But came the tide and made my pains his prey.

Vain man (said she) that dost in vain assay

A mortal thing so to immortalise;

For I myself shall like to this decay,

And eke my name be wipèd out likewise.

Not so (quod I); let baser things devise

To die in dust, but you shall live by fame;

My verse your virtues rare shall eternise,

And in the heavens write your glorious name:   

Where, when as Death shall all the world subdue,   

Our love shall live, and later life renew.  

One sonnet 2 adaptations
One sonnet; 2 adaptations

  • Petrarch/Wyatt/Surrey; read the Petrarchan sonnet 140; what are its themes?

Petrarchan themes
Petrarchan themes

  • Subject: love of his life Laura

  • desire/melancholy/elements/weather and seasons/nature

Introduction of the english sonnet
Introduction of the English sonnet

  • Wyatt

  • Surrey: gave it a rhyming meter

  • Difficulty: English language poor of rhyme

Mortality and immortality
Mortality and immortality

  • One Day I Wrote…

  • Description of Spring

  • What do these poems have in common?

  • What is the tone of both poems?

Shakespearian sonnet
Shakespearian sonnet

  • Refreshing

  • Abab cdcd efef gg

  • Volta in the couplet


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date,

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


WHEN raging love with extreme painMost cruelly distrains my heart ;When that my tears, as floods of rain,Bear witness of my woful smart ;When sighs have wasted so my breathThat I lie at the point of death :I call to mind the navy greatThat the Greeks brought to Troy town :And how the boisterous winds did beatTheir ships, and rent their sails adown ;Till Agamemnon's daughter's bloodAppeas'd the Gods that them withstood.And how that in those ten years warFull many a bloody deed was done ;And many a lord that came full far,There caught his bane, alas ! too soon ;And many a good knight overrun,Before the Greeks had Helen won.


Then think I thus : ' Sith such repair,So long time war of valiant men,Was all to win a lady fair,Shall I not learn to suffer then ?And think my life well spent to be,Serving a worthier wight than she ?'Therefore I never will repent,But pains contented still endure ;For like as when, rough winter spent,The pleasant spring straight draweth in ure ;So after raging storms of care,Joyful at length may be my fare.