Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare

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What are differences between Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets?

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In Italian, a "sonnet" means a small song devoted to a solo or single idea. Though invented in Sicily sometime in the 1220s, the Italian sonnet was perfected by Frances Petrarch in the fourteenth century. Sir Thomas Wyatt brought the Petrarchan sonnet to England via translation in the sixteenth century and then reinvented the Italian form in English. Because Shakespeare mastered the English sonnet, the two terms are now loosely interchangeable.

What Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets (and indeed all sonnet forms) have in common is that the entire poem is structured as an extended metaphor . The sonnet builds up the central idea of the poem using different figures of speech. Often these metaphors and similes are strong and jarring which lends a sonnet its dramatic power. Since the sonnet originated in the court, it is particularly well-suited for expressions of love, both worldly and divine. The other concept common to both Petrarchan and...

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