skip to main | skip to sidebar
Home » » What are the Petrarchan and anti-Petrarchan elements in Shakespeare's "Sonnet XVIII"

The sonnet form was innovated by Petrarch (1304-74), an Italian poet. Later in the Elizabethan period, Wyatt, Earl of Surrey, Spenser, Shakespeare and many other English poets experimented with the form and content of the sonnet established by Petrarch. However, Shakespeare used some of the Petrarchan elements but he deviated from Petrarchan tradition in several ways.

A Petrarchan sonnet is a short poem of fourteen lines. So is Shakespeare’s sonnet. Lyricism is another glaring feature of Petrarchan sonnets. It is also a striking feature in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Lyricism is brought in a poem by using music and personal emotion. In Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XVIII”, for example, there is abundant of music and personal emotion. Rhythm, rhyme and alliterative words have created the music in it, and the emotion expressed in it is the experience of the speaker. Moreover, in a Petrarchan sonnet a male lover addresses a female beloved almost in the form of worshipping. Similarly, in “Sonnet XVIII”, the praise of the lover tends to be worshipping though the lovers are both males.

However, Shakespearean sonnets differ from Petrarchan sonnets at several points. Each of the fourteen lines of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XVIII” consists of ten syllables. But each of the fourteen lines of a Petrarchan sonnet is hendecasyllabic (eleven syllabic). In a Petrarchan sonnet, the subject is introduced in the first eight lines, which are called an octave. The last six lines, which are called a sestet, provide the resolution. On the other hand, as “Sonnet XVIII” shows, a Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains and a couplet. The rhyme scheme of a Petrarchan sonnet is abba abba cde cde or cdc dcd. While the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet is abab cdcd efef gg.

So, there are several similarities and dissimilarities between a Petrarchan sonnet and a Shakespearean sonnet. Shakespeare imitated Petrarch but added charm and variety with his own innovation.


Post a Comment

Back To Top