Is the ending couplet really a non-rhyming couplet? It seems plausible that "eternally" could rhyme with "die". Any linguists out there?It is based on a linguist's discussion of pronunciation in...

Is the ending couplet really a non-rhyming couplet? It seems plausible that "eternally" could rhyme with "die". Any linguists out there?

It is based on a linguist's discussion of pronunciation in Shakespeare's day.

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can't claim to be a linguist, but I do know a little bit about sonnets.

The sonnet you are referring to, "Death Be Not Proud," is not by Shakespeare, but by John Donne.  Since Donne lived around the same time, though, we could legitimately use his poems as a clue to pronunciation patterns in Shakespeare's times. 

There are many different styles of sonnets.  Most of them, including the "Shakesperian" sonnet, end with a rhyming couplet.  So if Donne, a contemporary of Shakespeare, ended a sonnet with the words eternally and die, it would seem that he pronounced these words in such a way that they rhymed.

I seem to recall reading poems in which the -ly suffix is used as a rhyme with words like die, lie, rye, etc.; unfortunately for you, I can't recall where.  So, you have a little homework tonight.  Go to the second link below and browse through some of John Donne's poetry; see if you can find another example of -ly being pronounced like lie.

sylver | Student

I talked with a colleague who is a linguist and who has studied Shakespeare's pronunciation. Because Shakespeare and Donne were contemporaries, he said it is likely that "eternally" was pronounced "eternal-lie" to rhyme with "die". This is based on similar rhyming patterns/pronunciations in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  So, for what that is worth.

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