The Shakespearean sonnet form is the one that Shakespeare most often used, though it is sometimes referred to as the English sonnet as well. It is made up of three quatrains and a final couplet. It’s rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. It traditionally is written in iambic pentameter. However, we are not purists, simply ten syllables per line is our required metric. This is not the only form of sonnet, but Shakespeare preferred it due to the heavy build up the first three quatrains gave before the final envoy lines. Read more about other sonnet forms here.
Rules of the Shakespearean Sonnet
It is a poem of fourteen lines
It is composed of three quatrains and a couplet
The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG
There are ten syllables per line (optional iambic pentameter)
Example of the Form
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts–from far where I abide–
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
– Sonnet 27, William Shakespeare
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.
Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare