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16 th Century Sonnets . Sonnets. Sonnets are early forms of entertainment through the combination of words and music.

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  • Sonnets are early forms of entertainment through the combination of words and music.
  • The sonnet is a poetic form that is believed to have originated in Italy sometime in the 13th century. It comes from the Italian word sonetto, which means little sound, or little song.
  • It was recited with musical accompaniment, usually by a lute or mandolin.
  • It was further developed and perfected in the 14th century by a poet and scholar named Francesco Petrarch.
    • His sonnets were translated into English.
  • The British began using the form to write their own sonnets, but not until 200 years after Petrarch's success.
  • Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard are credited with bringing the 14-line lyric form to the English language early in the 16th century
  • When Queen Elizabeth inherited the throne in 1558, even more literary creativity blossomed because the queen supported the arts and wrote poetry herself.
  • It was during this part of the Renaissance that English sonnets were made popular by poets such as Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare.
  • Sonnets traditionally address love and the conflict between romantic love and religious devotion to God.
  • In the 17th century, John Milton, another British poet, used sonnets to address other topics, such as politics and moral criticism.
  • Modern sonnets cover many topics.
sonnet types structures
Sonnet Types & Structures
  • There are two main types of sonnets: English sonnets and Italian sonnets.
    • There are also variations of these.
    • All English sonnets and most Italian sonnets are written in iambic pentameter.
    • Though Italian and English sonnets are similar, they have some distinct differences.
iambic pentameter
Iambic Pentameter
  • The iamb is one type of poetic foot(a unit of a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables).
  • An iamb is composed of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.
    • (EX: Shall I)
  • One line of a sonnet has five poetic feet.
    • More specifically, it has five iambs.
iambic pentameter1
Iambic Pentameter
  • The feet are separated with slashes, and the stressed syllable in the iamb is marked in bold.
  • Stress the dark syllables and read it aloud. When reading normally, you would not stress the accented syllables unnaturally. However, if you listen to yourself reading the line with the opposite syllables emphasized, you can see that the first way is correct.
  • Shall I / compare / thee to / a sum/mer’sday?
the italian petrarchan sonnet
The Italian (Petrarchan) Sonnet
  • The Italian sonnet is 14 lines long and made of two distinct parts.
  • The first part is an octave, eight lines long, with the rhyme scheme of abbaabba. The octave presents a narrative, states a proposition (an idea to be considered), or raises a question.
the italian petrarchan sonnet1
The Italian (Petrarchan) Sonnet
  • The rest of the sonnet is a sestet, six lines long, with a rhyme scheme of cdecde, cdcdcd, cdccdc, or cdedce.
    • Though the sestet rhyme scheme varies, it always makes an abstract comment, elaborates on the proposition, or answers the question that was asked in the octave.
  • Italian sonnets are the predominant sonnet form today.
the english shakespearean or elizabethan sonnet
The English (Shakespearean or Elizabethan) Sonnet
  • The English sonnet is also 14 lines long. However, it is made up of four sections instead of two.
the english shakespearean or elizabethan sonnet1
The English (Shakespearean or Elizabethan) Sonnet
  • The first three sections are quatrains(groups of four lines), each with a rhyme scheme of its own (usually every other line).
  • The final two lines are a rhyming couplet. This makes the overall rhyme scheme look like: ababcdcdefefgg.
the english shakespearean or elizabethan sonnet2
The English (Shakespearean or Elizabethan) Sonnet
  • The three quatrains usually describe a subject or develop a theme.
  • The couplet at the end gives a conclusion and highlights or summarizes the meaning of the poem.
sonnet sequences
Sonnet Sequences
  • Many times a poet will write a series of sonnets about a single subject.
  • The subject might be something general such as love, or something specific such as one particular person.
  • These related sonnets are simply called sonnet sequences, or cycles.
  • When poets are presenting a series of similar ideas, they will sometimes arrange the ideas in similar grammatical form.
  • This is called parallelism.
  • Parallelism makes the main idea clear and makes the poem graceful and orderly.
  • Writers of prose also use parallelism sometimes.
  • It is a type of repetition.

In this octave from "Sonnet 26" poet Edmund Spencer uses parallelism effectively:

Sweet is the rose, but grows upon a briar;Sweet is the juniper, but sharp his bough;Sweet is the eglantine, but pricketh near;Sweet is the fir bloom, but his branches rough;Sweet is the cypress, but his rynd is tough;Sweet is the nut, but bitter is his pill;Sweet is the broom flower, but yet sour enough;And sweet is moly, but his root is ill.

Underline the parallelism in the above poem.

What are the similar ideas? Think about each line.

  • All the lines begin with "Sweet is the," and then after a noun there is a comma and the word "but." These lines all look alike.
  • What about the similar ideas?
    • Each line is about a plant.
    • The first part of each line describes the plant as "sweet" and the second part points out that even though the plant is sweet it also has something about it that is undesirable.
  • The similar structure of each line matches the similar ideas between the lines. That is parallelism.
figurative devices that add musical quality
Figurative Devices that add musical quality
  • Alliteration- is a figurative device that uses repetition of similar initial sounds of words.
    • Tongue twisters are examples of alliteration, but poets use it to add that musical quality mentioned above or to create a mood.
    • Most alliteration today is consonantal, meaning the initial sounds are consonants.
  • Consonance- is the repetition of consonants in the middle or end of words.

She sells sea shells by the sea shore.

figurative devices that add musical quality1
Figurative Devices that add musical quality
  • Assonance- the repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds in stressed syllables of words.
    • Most often the assonance appears in words that end in different consonant sounds.
    • That means assonance is something in addition to regular rhyme.
  • By employing these "sound" devices, the poet can develop a sense of softness (with letters like S, L, M) or harshness (with letters like K or the hard G).
figurative devices that add musical quality2
Figurative Devices that add musical quality

Find the assonance in these lines by Dylan Thomas:

  • The bows glided down, and the coastBlackened with birds took a last lookAt his thrashing hair and whale-blue eye;The trodden town rang its cobbles for luck.
figurative language
Figurative Language
  • Sonnets are rich in figurative language. Figurative language appeals to the senses and creates images in the reader's mind by using language that is not meant to be taken literally. Figures of speech are figurative language. All of these devices appeal to the senses and create imagery for readers.
figurative language1
Figurative Language
  • metaphor- A comparison that does not use "as" or "like"
    • "My brother is a bear in the mornings"
  • simile- A comparison that uses the words "like" or "as"
    • "My mouth was as dry as the desert"
  • personification- Giving human traits (qualities, feelings, action, or characteristics) to non-living objects (things, colors, qualities, or ideas)
    • "The sun smiled"
figurative language2
Figurative Language
  • onomatopoeia- Words that imitate the sound they represent.
    • bang, cuckoo, sizzle
  • hyperbole- Figurative language in which extreme exaggeration used to emphasize a point
    • http://www.worsleyschool.net/socialarts/hyperbole/hyperbole2.html
tips for reading sonnets
Tips for reading sonnets
  • Read the sonnets slowly out loud. It will help you hear the rhyme, the rhythm of the iambic pentameter, and the overall beauty of the language. Remember that sonnets were often recited aloud with music.
  • Read through each sonnet at least two times. The first time through, listen to the rhythms and sounds.
tips for reading sonnets1
Tips for reading sonnets
  • The second time you read the sonnet, ask yourself these questions to find the underlying theme or message being presented.
  • Feel free to read it through a third time or a fourth time. New meanings or new images may come to mind each time you read it through.
francesco petrarch 1304 1374
Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)
  • Petrarch paved the way for the widespread success and popularity of the sonnet in Britain.
  • Like the Italian poet Dante, Petrarch's poetry centered on the theme of unrequited love, which means unreturned, hopeless love.
  • Petrarch met a married woman named Laura and fell deeply in love with her. Though his love was unrequited, he claimed that Laura made him a poet.
francesco petrarch
Francesco Petrarch
  • He developed a reputation as a classical scholar and poet and was invited by both Paris and Rome to be their poet laureate. He chose Rome, a city rich with symbols of the traditional glories of his native Italy.
  • After Laura and several of his friends died from the plague, Petrarch compiled the poems he had written about Laura in a book of poetry. Most of these are part of a sonnet sequence called the Canzoniere.
  • Petrarch was called the "father of Italian language" for his elevation of the language to an art form.
sir thomas wyatt 1503 1542
Sir Thomas Wyatt(1503-1542)
  • Sir Thomas Wyatt was born in England and studied at Cambridge University.
  • He was a courtier and a diplomat in the service of King Henry VIII.
  • Wyatt was strongly opinionated and was arrested and imprisoned on two separate occasions for quarrels at court.
sir thomas wyatt
Sir Thomas Wyatt
  • He was interested in foreign literature. Wyatt, along with poet Henry Howard, brought the Italian sonnet to England.
  • Like Petrarch, Wyatt experienced unrequited love that fueled his poetry. He grew up in the same household with Anne Boleyn and fell in love with her. He was devastated when she married Henry VIII.
  • Wyatt himself never published a collection of his own poems.
sir thomas wyatt1
Sir Thomas Wyatt
  • After his death, however, 97 of Wyatt's poems were published in a book originally called simply Songs and Sonnets.
    • It is now known as Tottel's Miscellany. This collection gained popularity and was influential in the lives of generations of poets, courtiers, and other readers.
  • His poems are superb examples of the Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet.
sir philip sidney 1554 1586
Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)
  • Sir Philip Sidney was an admirer of Petrarch and wrote Petrarchan sonnets.
  • His father was the governor of Ireland three times.
  • An Oxford scholar, Sidney quickly earned a reputation for his grace and maturity.
  • He was a dedicated Protestant, especially after he saw massacres of Protestants in France while serving as a courtier for Queen Elizabeth.
sir philip sidney 1554 15861
Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)
  • He wrote poems and prose as well as criticisms of literature. He argued that poets can create worlds better than the real world in that their poetry magnifies the beauty and magic of nature.
  • Sidney also served in the army, which is where he died when he was only 32-years-old.
  • The English people deeply mourned their beloved soldier poet who died in service.
edmund spenser 1552 1599
Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
  • Spenser was born to a relatively poor family in London. However, he was sponsored to attend a school founded on humanist ideals.
  • He later went to Cambridge University and afterward became an aide and secretary to different important men.
  • Spenser rubbed elbows with many influential people. He even presented poems to Queen Elizabeth.
edmund spenser 1552 15991
Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
  • His work took him to Ireland where one of his employers gave him 3,028 acres, including a castle.
  • Spenser's extensive classical and religious education is evident in his imaginative poems. They also show his understanding of the philosophy of morality and politics.
  • Spenser varied the Italian sonnet into a form called the Spenserian sonnet. Like Shakespeare's English sonnet, Spenser's was also grouped into three quatrains and a couplet. However, its rhymes overlapped: ababbcbccdcdee.
edmund spenser 1552 15992
Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
  • Spenser wrote in an old style of English to make his poetry sound antique. He also chose alternate spellings of words to make rhymes that were pleasing to the eye.
  • His best known work is The Faerie Queene. That epic poem pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth I and the Tudor family.
  • Spenser is buried beside Chaucer in what is now known as the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. It is rumored that Shakespeare himself attended Spenser's funeral.
william shakespeare 1564 1616
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  • The great British playwright, William Shakespeare, not only wrote many famous plays, but he also wrote poetry.
  • From 1592 until 1594, when the theatres in England closed because of the plague, Shakespeare was left without much to do. He put on a few performances for Queen Elizabeth, and spent the rest of his time writing poetry.
william shakespeare 1564 16161
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  • Throughout his life he wrote various types of poems, including 154 sonnets.
  • When Shakespeare first began writing sonnets he wrote in Petrarchan sonnet style. He eventually switched to the English sonnet style and achieved fame writing English sonnets.
  • Soon the English sonnet became known also as the Shakespearean sonnet.
william shakespeare 1564 16162
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  • Shakespeare wrote most of his sonnets in sequences.
  • One sonnet sequence contains sonnets written to a handsome young man, giving him advice about his future and life's choices.
  • The subject of his second sonnet sequence is a rival poet. The third sonnet sequence is written about a mysterious "Dark Lady."