Shakespeare's Sonnets Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Sonnets book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How can I analyze "Sonnet 84" by William Shakespeare?

Expert Answers info

Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12), Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Calvin University

bookM.A. from Dordt University

calendarEducator since 2014

write6,258 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History

You can analyze a poem in a variety of ways by taking into account rhyme, meter, theme, subject, structure, etc.  I always like to start with rhyme.  "Sonnet 84" is a standard Shakespearean sonnet with its rhyme scheme.  The sonnet is comprised of four stanzas.  The first three stanzas are four lines each.  They each have an ABAB rhyme scheme.  The last stanza is rhymed couplet.  So the overall rhyme scheme of "Sonnet 84" is ABABCDCDEFEFGG.  

Each line of the poem contains 10 syllables.  The syllables alternate between an unstressed syllable and a stressed syllable.  That rhythm is the iambic foot.  Because each line has ten syllables, that means each line has five rhythmic iambic feet.  Simply put, "Sonnet 84" is written in iambic pentameter.  

As is common with Shakespearean sonnets, the final couplet is a sort of "twist" on the rest of the poem.  For twelve lines, the speaker narrates about how awesome some girl is.  She is so great that by simply writing about her, a piece of literature is made so good that it will become famous.

But he that writes of you, if he can tell
That you are you, so dignifies his story,
Let him but copy what in you is writ,
Not making worse what nature made so clear,
And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,
Making his style admired every where.

She sounds awesome.  Unfortunately, the last stanza knocks her down a peg or two.  Whoever this girl is, she loves hearing about herself.   This has the adverse affect of making people want to write more about her, which in turn degrades the quality of the writing.

You to your beauteous blessings add a curse,
Being fond on praise, which makes your praises worse.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial