How I do write a Shakespearean style sonnet (like Sonnet 14)? How do I write a Shakespearean style sonnet (like Sonnet 14)?

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To write a mimetic Shakespearean sonnet, you need to master the structure and rhyme scheme. The structure allows for a topic to be introduced, a problem or situation to be revealed, a solution to be posed, and the solution solidified--all in 14 lines! The sonnet originated with Petrarch who incorporated "turns" in the subject under discussion in the topic; these turns are called voltas. They occur at the 5th and 9th lines. The 5th line turns to the problem or situation. The 9th line turns to the solution. The ending couplet gives the crowning touch to the solution of the sonnets subject. In mimesis of Sonnet 14, you need an underlying metaphor comparing something you do not do (astronomy) to something you do do (gaze in your beloved's eyes). You need a second metaphor connecting the first half of the metaphor (astronomy) to something related to the beloved (her eyes are "constant stars"). You need a problem ("Nor can I ... fortune tell") and a solution ("But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive"). And you need a summation that ties it all together in the ending couplet of the abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme sonnet in iambic pentameter: But^ from' / thine^ eyes' / my^ know-' / -ledge^ I' /de^ -rive'.

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I like your idea, goodperson, and your rhyming is pretty good (but not perfect!).  You need to work on meter.  Each line should be 5 sets of unstressed-stressed (to DAY is NOT a DAY to STAY outDOORS), but some of yours are not.

Here is my line marked with a ' before each stressed syllable and a slash between the 5 feet:

To'day / is 'not / a 'day / to 'stay / out 'doors.


And here is your first quatrain similarly marked:


I 'don't / have 'spe / cial  'son/ net 'for / Ms. 'Eng,

My 'time / was 'oc / cu'pied / with 'bet / ter 'things.

I 'spent / my 'week / end 'watch / ing 'something,

And 'there / were 'ma / ny 'games / in  'vol / ving 'Kings.


It is your best quatrain, but the meter is wrong in the 3rd line, and you had to omit 'a' ('a special sonnet') in the first line to keep the beat.  Compare your 3rd line to this:

I 'spent my 'weekend 'watching 'Elvis 'sing.

Say them both aloud and notice that the rhythm is regular in mine.  Now go through the rest of your sonnet-- say it aloud and say it strong-- and fix all the places (there are many!) where the soft-strong rhythm is broken.

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I will explain that a Shakespearean sonnet is written in iambic pentameter (which means 5 repetitions of a weak stress followed by a strong stress-- for example,  'toDAY  / i FOUND / a DECK / of CARDS / at HOME').

And the rhyme scheme of a Shakesperean is abab cdcd efef gg. This means that it is composed of 14 lines (of iambic pentameter), that they are grouped into 3 quatrains (abab, cdcd, and efef) plus a closing couplet (gg) and that the ending syllables of each of the lines represented by the doubled letters in the rhyme scheme have the same sound.

So the first quatrain (abab) might be something like this:

Today I found a deck of cards at home,

And looking at their faces gave me pause:

I wondered if I wrote the King a pome,

The Queen would scratch me with her hearty claws.

This is a quatrain of iambic pentameter and the beginning of a Shakespearean sonnet.  What you need to do is write 3 quatrains.  The 1st line must rhyme with the 3rd and the 2nd line must rhyme with the 4th, but the quatrains don't have to rhyme with each other.

And then you must write the final summing-up: the two rhyming lines of the final couplet:

And so I learned that playing cards is fine,

So long as kings and queens are kept in line!

Oh, and one more point: the whole thing (all 14 lines) should tell a tale and preferably point a moral.  Give it a try-- it's a lot of fun!

Post it here, and we'll critique it for you.


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