A weekly grammar tip created by Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
Victoria, TX 77901
|Write a Sonnet to
Celebrate Shakespeare's Birthday
by Kelli Trungale
|William Shakespeare’s birthday
is celebrated worldwide on April 23. It is believed that he was born on
approximately that date in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire,
England. Therefore, in honor of the great bard, we'd like to encourage you
to try your hand at writing a Shakespearean sonnet.
A sonnet is a poem consisting of 14 lines and varying rhyme schemes. The Shakespearean sonnet has its own specific rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg. The tone and/or subject of the Shakespearean sonnet usually shifts in the ninth line. Most of the lines in this sort of sonnet are written in iambic pentameter. That is, each line consists of 5 sets of 2 syllables, the second syllable in each set receiving the emphasis. Here is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known sonnets, courtesy of Place2Be:
That time of year thou mayst in
On a notably less skillful level, here’s another example, just to prove that anyone, including me, can write a Shakespearean sonnet! The lines are numbered and lettered according to the rhyme scheme, and the emphasized syllables are typed in bold font:
1 She cried the day her love for him had died; A
2 She wept her tears behind closed doors at night. B
3 Her pain was such that it was hard to hide; A
4 Her face showed false joy to disguise her plight. B
5 To love and to have lost was not her plan; C
6 Now of her future she no longer knew. D
7 To leave the side of this caring young man, C
8 For her, this bold deed was so hard to do. D
9 With haste and fear, she packed her bags and fled E
10 In search of life in an urbanized scene. F
11 Of the pastoral life she had once led E
12 She cared not to revisit; she’d grown keen F
13 To the city life, which tempted fate G
14 And led her to a renewed mental state. G
Of course, not all of the lines are in perfect iambic pentameter; it’s acceptable to stray from the beaten path from time to time. The main thing to remember about Shakespearean sonnets is that although they can be somewhat difficult to write, they can be a fun, cathartic method of self-expression while testing our ability to stay within poetic confines.
The Place 2 Be. This reader-friendly site explains the intricacies of the Shakespearean sonnet. Also, it contains all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets known to exist, as well as interesting information about the themes and statistics of many of these sonnets.
Comments about this newsletter should be directed to Tutoring Services, Tutor@uhv.edu.