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The Sonnets Of Shakespeare In The Tradition Of Petrarch

3107 words - 13 pages

Both poetics geniuses, William Shakespeare and Francesco Petrarch are connected forever in the literary realm, though the men themselves lived centuries apart.The sonnet form prestigiously employed by William Shakespeare, as well as the famous poet-lover dilemma that most of his sonnets regard, came to him from a gifted writer who lived centuries before, the Italian Francesco Petrarch. Although Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), a contemporary of Martin Luther and Henry VIII, first introduced Petrarchan love poetry into England in the sixteenth century, it was Shakespeare who popularized it so remarkably that future generations would recognize and study it.The writings of Wyatt introduced some ...view middle of the document...

It is known that Petrarch met Laura in Avignon, where he had entered the household of an influential cardinal. Laura is believed to have possibly been the 19-year-old wife of Hugues de Sade, who Petrarch saw for the first time in the church of Saint Claire. Laura, in her frustrating perfection and unattainability could easily have been a fictional character, formed by Petrarch as a figure of inspiration. However, the lady Laura is a quite realistically presented female character, moreso than many of the adored females featured in the conventional songs of the troubadours or in the literature of courtly love.Petrarch was regarded as the greatest scholar of his age. He wrote the majority of his works in Latin, although his sonnets and canzoni written in Italian were equally influential. Petrarch's influence and intelligence "Inaugurated the age in which the intellectual focus shifted from theology to the development and experience of the individual" (Grolier 30).Petrarch's sonnets were written and revised during the years between 1327 and 1374. Petrarch's Rime in vita e morta di Madonna Laura, better known as the Canzoniere (Songbook) was inspired by the lady Laura, chronicling his emotions, reactions and frustration beginning with his first encounter with her at the age of 23. Upon her death, the poet finds that his grief is as difficult to live with as was his former despair. Morris West, in his biography entitled, Petrarch and His World states that, "Laura's steady resistance to his (Petrarch's) desire produced poetry as the resistance in an electric filament produces light" (82).Petrarch centered his sonnets mainly around Laura, but also on a series of themes comprising of Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time and Eternity. Elizabethan sonneteers used these themes as the standard for many of their own works. Shakespeare in particular wrote many sonnets that have the Petrarchan themes of Time, Love and Death at their center and even parodies Petrarchan sentiments in Sonnet 130.Shakespeare arose as a literary genius in his age, writing a series of plays and poetry that would continue in merit and popularity well beyond his lifetime, continuing in fame today. While Shakespeare did interject sonnets into many of his plays, the term "Shakespeare's Sonnets" is usually referring to a group of 154 poems that were published first in 1609 in collective form under the title of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Shakespeare actually composed these 154 verse pieces over a relatively long time span (between 1592 and 1597 or so), around the time that he wrote his most famous early tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, a love story that includes examples of the Shakespearean sonnet within its text.Though many of Shakespeare's sonnets impose the pattern of a Petrarchan sonnet onto the formal pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet, in that there are still fourteen lines in three quatrains and a couplet, with the first two quatrains asking a question, which the third quatrain and the couplet...

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