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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Sonnet 89
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1723  Tuesday, 14 September 2004

From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Sep 2004 07:17:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1645 Sonnet 89
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1645 Sonnet 89

Once again, due to a loss of electricity for a week here in south
Florida due to Hurricane Frances, I am only now catching up on old
business, and have a mailbox filled with a hundred SHAKSPER posts to
glean through, some a week old:

Robin Hamilton quotes me, "As I recall, from memory, Shakespeare
*created* a new form, with three stanzas, and two couplets, rhyme
schemes specific."

Then Robin writes, "No, it was Surrey, well before Bill the Bard.  Wyatt
always used the Petrarchan form.  The four-quatrains-and-a-couplet
business suits a rhyme-poor language like English better than Italian ...
  RH.

  a
  b
  a
  b

  (times four {!} [sic!])

  g
  g
   ... as against abba abba cde cde

  Jus' a thot ..."

Well, I am no Shakespearean scholar, but I like to think I operate as a
scholar in general and know my *poetics*.

According to *A Handbook To Literature* by Thrall and Hibbard and
Holman, "The *sonnet* as a form developed in Italy probably in the
thirteen century.  Petrarch, in the fourteenth century, raised the
*sonnet* to its greatest Italian perfection and so gave it, for English
readers, his own name.  The form was introduced into England by Thomas
Wyatt, who translated Petrarchan *sonnets* and left over thirty examples
of his own in English.  Surrey, an associate, shares with Wyatt the
credit for introducting the form to England and is important as an early
modifier of the Italian form.  Gradually the Italian *sonnet* pattern
(which had proved somewhat too rigid for English poets) was modified and
since Shakespeare attained greatest fame for poems of this modified type
his name has often been given to the English form."

No doubt, Spenser and others experimented with sonnet forms.  As I had
suggested, take a peek at *The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and
Poetics.*  But I am interested herein in *form* as opposed to the
history in this post.

However, back to *A Handbook to Literature*: the authors state [page
465] that both the Petrarchan and the so-called Shakespearean sonnet
form contains 14 lines, "The first, the Italian form, is distinguished
by its bipartite division into the *OCTAVE* and the *SESTET*: the
*OCTAVE* consisting of a first division of eight lines riming *abba
abba* and the SESTET, or second division, consisting of six lines riming
*cde cde,* *cdc cdc," or *cde dce.*"

So, where do you get this 16 lines idea?  You had written, "the
four-quatrains-and-a-couplet business" and added, "(times four {!}
[sic!])."  I accept that the English poets experimented extensively
because of the difference in endings for rhymes between Italian and
English, but never have I heard of a 16-line Petrarchan sonnet.  Why are
you emphatic with the [sic!] and what is your assured source?

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

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