Shakespeare's Sonnets

Love and a Lack of Time: The Sonnet from Shakespeare to the Present Day 12th Grade

Sonnets are traditionally fourteen line poems written in iambic pentameter. They often adhere to either a Shakespearean, Petrarchan, or Spenserian rhyme scheme, or they can contain a mixture known as a diaspora rhyme scheme. Many times, sonnets are about topics such as mortality, love, time, and nostalgia and have a shift known as a volta in which the point of view or the tone takes a turn. In this case, the topics of love and a lack of time are explored through the sonnets “Her Portrait, “Sonnet 19,” and “I Ask My Mother to Sing.”

The first sonnet, “Her Portrait,” by Jean Blewett does not fit into a conventional form, though it starts off as a Shakespearean sonnet and contains fourteen lines. Interestingly, the volta occurs after line eight, which is also when the poem begins to digress from the traditional Shakespearean rhyme scheme. The volta is marked by a shift from a past memory back to the present day. On a literal level, “Her Portrait” is about a painting of a young child and the way it has sustained over time. Yet, through metaphor, color imagery, and a contrast between time and preservation, Blewett demonstrates the way in which love imprints things into our memory. The sonnet begins by describing a little girl that...

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