Sonnet 29 and Sonnet 30 Themes Lesson Plan
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Theme Developed Through Internal Dynamics:
This lesson plan focuses on how Shakespeare employs internal dynamics in sonnets 29 and 30 in characterizing the speaker and developing similar themes in both works. Students will identify the structure in each sonnet, including the rhyme scheme and volta, and describe how the sonnet’s content and tone change within the structure. In studying the internal dynamics of both sonnets, students will be better able to describe how their themes are similar and how the similarities are developed in the texts.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to
- define “dynamics” as the term relates to poetry;
- identify the rhyme scheme and volta in each sonnet;
- describe the change in each sonnet’s content and tone following the volta;
- interpret figurative language in each sonnet and draw inferences from it regarding the speaker’s emotional state;
- determine the theme in each sonnet and describe how the themes are similar.
Skills: close reading, comparing texts, drawing inferences from a text, interpreting figurative language and connotative meaning, drawing theme from a text
Common Core Standards: RL.11-12.1, RL.11-12.3, RL.11-12.4, RL.11-12.5
In addition to his work as a playwright, Shakespeare created some of the most enduring poetry in English—to the point that the English sonnet became known as the Shakespearean sonnet.
Shakespeare is most noted for his plays—the tragedies, comedies, and historical works through which he examines human nature, revealing truths about the human condition. It is not only in Shakespeare’s plays, however, that he pursues these artistic intentions. Between the early 1590s and 1609, the poet created a collection of 154 sonnets that also reflect his desire to explore how people think and feel when caught up in compelling circumstances. Specifically, the sonnets reflect the interior life of an unidentified speaker as he journeys through his personal relationships with an unnamed, youthful male and an older woman. Within this dramatic context, Shakespeare develops themes regarding love, friendship, beauty, betrayal, regret, and the relentlessness of time. In writing his sonnets, Shakespeare used the English sonnet form, which took after the 14th-century Petrarchan sonnet that had made the form popular. The English sonnet eventually was identified as the Shakespearean sonnet, a tribute to the significance of his sonnets in English literature.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are written in first-person perspective from the speaker’s point of view, but it should not be assumed that the speaker is Shakespeare himself or that the speaker’s feelings and experiences are the poet’s. Literary critics have debated at length, and without success, how much of Shakespeare’s own life is reflected in the sonnets. However, the issue is unrelated to the artistry in Shakespeare’s sonnets and their place in the canon of English literature. The proper sequential arrangement of the sonnets is also controversial among critics because the poems were not originally published together. While Shakespeare had no hand in publishing the sonnets as a collection, the intentionality of the sequence suggests that either the printer or the poet arranged the sonnets to tell a cohesive story. Therefore, readers can appreciate the sonnets as individual poems and as a collection because of Shakespeare’s genius in characterizing the speaker and capturing the essence of an emotional experience in a few lines or a single metaphor. In his sonnets, as in his plays, Shakespeare reveals timeless and universal truths about the human condition.
About this Document
- An introduction to the text
- A step-by-step guide to lesson procedure
- Previous and following lesson synopses for preparation and extension ideas
- A collection of handouts and worksheets complete with answer keys