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How many sonnets are there in Romeo & Juliet?

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fjaipoon | eNoter

Posted March 15, 2012 at 7:56 PM via web

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How many sonnets are there in Romeo & Juliet?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:13 PM (Answer #1)

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A Shakespearian sonnet is a collection of 14 lines of iambic pentameter with a strict rhyme scheme. What is interesting about Shakespeare's works is that he often includes sonnets in his plays, and Romeo and Juliet is no exception. There are three specific sections that critics agree can be considered as sonnets.

The first is the Prologue for Act I, where the 14 lines that introduce the play clearly follow the format of a sonnet. The second is the Prologue again for Act II. The third one is the conversation that Romeo and Juliet have when they first meet in Act I at the banquet in the Capulet mansion, which although is made up of both of their lines, still follows the rules of a sonnet:

ROMEO

If I profane with my unworthiest hand 
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: 
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand 
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JULIET 
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, 
Which mannerly devotion shows in this; 
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

ROMEO
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

JULIET
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

ROMEO
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

JULIET
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

ROMEO 
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

If you examine these lines, you can see that they number fourteen in total and that they are all iambic pentameters and they have the specific form and layout and structure of a sonnet. Even though they are not spoken by one person, these lines still count as a sonnet.

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