We’ll show you the poem’s blueprints, and we’ll listen for the music behind the words.
There are lots of different ways to write a sonnet, which is basically a kind of short poem. Shakespeare's sonnets have a very specific form, though, and scholars have named that form the "Shakespearean sonnet" after the great bard. These kinds of sonnets have several things in common:
- They are 14 lines long.
- They are written in iambic pentameter.
- Usually, they include a feature called a "turn." This is a moment in the poem where the theme or the tone changes in a surprising way. This particular sonnet gives a really nice example of the turn. It comes in the last two lines, where the speaker switches his strategy completely. He has been criticizing his mistress, and then, all of a sudden, he starts telling us how much he loves her.
- The first twelve lines rhyme in alternating pairs. To show how this works, we can assign a letter to each rhyme: We'll show you how it works:
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; A
Coral is far more red than her lips' red; B
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; A
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. B
So, for the whole poem, the rhyme scheme would be ABABCDCDEFEFGG.
- See those last two letters at the end? This is the last important thing to know about the form of a Shakespearean sonnet: the poem always ends with two rhyming lines, one right after the other. We call this a couplet. Here's the one from the end of this poem:And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare G
As any she belied with false compare. G