© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Analysis: Form and Meter

Shakespearean Sonnet

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:

  1. They are 14 lines long.
  2. They are written in iambic pentameter.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...