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Sonnet 133

Sonnet 133

Analysis: Form and Meter

Elizabethan Sonnet (a.k.a. Shakespearean Sonnet)

Will Shakespeare wasn't the first person to write an "Elizabethan Sonnet" but he was most definitely the best, which is why this particular sonnet form is also known as a "Shakespearean Sonnet." Pretty impressive, right? We can't remember the last time a form of poetry was named after us.

So, what is it exactly that makes a poem a Shakespearean/Elizabethan sonnet? Well, they all have the same form and meter (except for Shakespeare's Sonnets 99, 126, and 145, which are slightly different than the rest). Don't worry. We'll break it all down for you below:

Form and Meter of a Typical Shakespearean/Elizabethan Sonnet

1. They're all 14 lines long (except for Sonnet 99 which has one extra line, and Sonnet 126 which is only 12 lines long).
2. They consist of 3 quatrains followed by a heroic couplet. (A quatrain is just a group of four lines and a heroic couplet is a set of 2 lines or iambic pentameter that rhyme.)

Brain Snack: Sonnet 126 has no quatrains. It's made up of 6 rhymed couplets. Here's how the quatrains and the couplet are divided in Sonnet 133:

Quatrain #1:

Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me.
Is't not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?

Quatrain #2:

Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
And my next self thou harder hast engrossed.
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken--
A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed.

Quatrain #3:

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward,
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigor in my jail.

Heroic Couplet:

And yet thou wilt, for I, being pent in thee
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

Okay. Great. Why does the sonnet's structure matter? Because it allows us to follow the speaker's thought process in a logical way as he tries to work out a problem, that's why. Here's how it unfolds in 133: The first quatrain introduces the subject (the speaker and his friend are both hurt because they're sleeping with the same woman, who has broken both their hearts). The second quatrain develops the subject further and even introduces more conflict (the speaker goes into more detail about how the mistress tortures both men). In the third quatrain, the speaker tries to come up with a solution (he offers to sacrifice himself to the cruel mistress on his friend's behalf). Finally, the heroic couplet offers up a strong conclusion (the speaker suddenly realizes that the situation is hopeless because the mistress is just going to keep hurting both men).

3. They almost always include a feature called a "turn" (a.k.a. "volta"). This is a moment in the poem where the theme or the tone changes in a sudden and surprising way. In Sonnet 133, the turn comes at lines 13-14 (the final couplet), where our speaker realizes that his mistress if just going to keep on torturing him and his friend, even though he's just spent the entire sonnet trying to get her to stop. Check it out:

And yet thou wilt, for I, being pent in thee
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

"Turns" don't always happen in the sonnet's final couplet. (A lot of them happen in the third quatrain.) But, here, our speaker suddenly just decides to throw in the towel, ending the sonnet on a final, hopeless note.

4. Just like much of Shakespeare's plays, the sonnets are mostly written in a meter called iambic pentameter, which is a pretty formal but also very natural sounding meter. It sounds like a series of 5 heart beats: daDUM, daDUM, daDUM, daDUM, daDUM. For example, check out line 1:

Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan

(Brain Snack: Sonnet 145 is the exception to this rule. It's written in iambic tetrameter instead of iambic pentameter.)

5. The rhyme scheme usually looks like this: ABABCDCDEFEFGG. (The first twelve lines rhyme in alternating pairs and the last two lines rhyme.)

Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan A
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me. B
Is't not enough to torture me alone, A
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be? B
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken, C
And my next self thou harder hast engrossed. D
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken-- C
A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed. D
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward, E
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail; F
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard; E
Thou canst not then use rigor in my jail. F
And yet thou wilt, for I, being pent in thee G
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me. G

(Brain Snack: Sonnet 29 is slightly different because the rhyme scheme is ABABCDCDEBEBFF.)

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