Shakespearean Sonnets

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Shakespearean sonnets break the boundaries which are placed on a typical Elizabethan sonnet, in terms of style and content. Shakespeare modernised the form of the sonnet by applying different rhyming schemes and complex techniques. It can be argued that his work, unlike traditional sonnets, illustrates an intersection between poetry and theatre during the English renaissance. He also chose to discuss “love” in quite an abstract way in his sonnets. Shakespeare appeared to be mocking the worshipful attitude of the Petrarchan sonnet, as he used a different type of idealism and chose to write homoerotic poetry. He continues this “mocking attitude” as his poetry of praise also appears to be written in quite a different, more complex style than that of a traditional sonnet. Shakespeare used what some critics call “the paradox of praise” throughout his sonnet sequence, rarely focusing on the monarchy. Shakespeare’s self-conscious deployment of homoeroticism, theatre, and printed poetry is quite unique, and does not feature in the traditional Elizabethan sonnet. These points will now be discussed in detail and argued throughout this essay, with reference to secondary sources and several of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Sonnets were wildly competitive in the 1590’s after the release of the 108 sonnets of Astrophil and Stella, by Sir Philip Sidney. Shakespeare modernised the form of the sonnet, transforming it from “a stylised, courtly love shtick to a fluent and flexible form that could
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