Shakespearean Sonnet is one of the most emulated forms of poetry in the world. There are multiple kinds of sonnets, but this is perhaps the most well known. This form can seem daunting, but it is really quite simple if you just want to have a little fun. Shakespearean sonnets are typically written in iambic pentameter, but for our purposes (having fun) we are waiving that requirement. But props to you if you do manage to nail that!
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)
Benefits of the Form
Sonnets offer both writers and readers a unique set of benefits and challenges. These fourteen-line poems are historically known for their structured rhyme and meter. This allows writers to convey complex emotions and narratives within a very specific framework. The constraints of the form encourage creativity and precision, pushing writers to innovate within the limitations. This form of poetry is incredibly hard to master but will greatly help your writing by focusing your intent and vocabulary.
Challenges of the Shakespearean Sonnet
However, writing sonnets comes with its share of difficulties. The rigid structure that defines sonnets can feel limiting. The requirement of writers to carefully balance creativity with adhering to rhyme and meter is tough. Ultimately, this should be a fun exercise, so if you want to abandon the hyper-specific meter, be our guest! We do it all the time.
Condensing thoughts into fourteen lines challenges writers to compress ideas effectively, but if you’ve got practice with haiku or other short forms, fourteen lines will seem like a lot! Additionally, finding originality within the established sonnet tradition can be tough, given the exploration of many classic themes. Overcoming these obstacles is essential (and fun) for aspiring sonneteers aiming to create engaging and thought-provoking works. These prompts are based on historic sonnet subjects, so feel free to breathe a little modernity into them!
Shakespearean Sonnet Writing Prompts
Prompt 1 – Moving Nature
Write a Shakespearean sonnet capturing the intricate and captivating movements of nature. Explore the changing seasons, the rhythm of the waves, the flight of birds, clouds floating through the sky, or come up with your own example.
Amidst the hues of autumn’s gentle trance,
The trees adorned in amber, gold, and red,
A symphony of leaves in breezy prance,
Nature’s whisper, a tale of seasons spread.
The waves, like ballerinas on the shore,
They rise and fall with rhythm’s tender grace,
Their whispers carry secrets to explore,
A waltz of tides, a timeless, endless chase.
And high above, the birds take flight in song,
Their wings a canvas painted ‘cross the sky,
A ballet of freedom, they glide along,
Upon an azure stage they twist and fly.
In nature’s dance, a world of beauty’s spun,
Each twirl, the moon, every step, the sun.
Prompt 2 – Love’s Paradox
Love is one of the sonnets’ most explored subjects. Love is also incredibly complex. There is passion and vulnerability, joy and pain. Craft a sonnet about love and all its mystery.
Upon ever rising trails of moonlight
I seek the port in you—ivory crook
of skin, an elbow, phosphorescent sight,
to moor my soul in, gentle as the brook
Just as that once lonely moon upon fields
of black does caress and fondle gently
the flowing ebon tide, your warm touch shields
the swimmer, struggling in the dark to see
Wild nights, indeed! The stillness abounds
but with just you, you alone, we defy—
Short intakes of breath, the loudest of sounds
Lain entwined in bed, never shut an eye
Together, then, docked in safety of the port
We revel in the life we have, too short!
Prompt 3 – Passing Time
Shakespeare wrote dozens of sonnets about the passing of time, and a lot of time has passed since he wrote those, but it’s still a boundless topic of poetry. Create a sonnet that reflects on the passage of time.
The sands of time slip through our grasping hands,
As moments weave their tapestry of old,
Fond memories persist, like distant lands,
A treasure trove of stories to be told.
The years advance, unyielding in their course,
and in their wake, they leave a trail of age,
Though time is not our enemy, but source,
Of wisdom, growth, and imprints on a page.
A photograph of laughter long since past,
A gentle touch from someone who has gone,
In time’s sojourn, nothing is meant to last,
But joyful legacy that lingers on.
Ever forward, time’s passage leaves behind,
Quilted fabric of moments intertwined.
Prompt 4 – Enigmatic Dreams
Dreams are often surreal, bizarre, and mysterious; it is one of our few breaks from reality. Write a sonnet inspired by dreams and the subconscious.
In Colorado clouds pass four-thousand
feet closer overhead. Their lightning filled
bodies pull against my skin. This cloudland
of static filled quilts. Pikes Peak waves a chilled
hand & her tall, snow-capped cousins survey
sun-beaten, cow filled pastures, their icy
eyes watch through translucent windows, I lay
sleep takes hold of my travel-worn, timely
eyes. In foreign rooms I am visited
by foreign dreams. I stand on cracked shoulders
& slake the recycled rain, limited,
straight from the source. Little raincloud soldiers
Begin to march on and on–right foot! Left!
Until I wake by the sun’s hand, so deft.
Prompt 5 – Cityscape
The sonnet is often depicted by flowery language or dated themes. Modernize it a bit! Craft a sonnet that paints a vivid picture of a bustling city. Capture the sights, sounds, and emotions of urban life, from towering skyscrapers to the cacophony of cars or beyond.
In city’s heart, where lights and echoes meet,
A symphony of urban life is played,
Skyscrapers stand like guardians of the street,
And too-quiet men in their shadows fade.
A thousand faces blend in endless streams,
A mosaic of image, colors, sound,
Where life’s kaleidoscope of hopes and dreams,
Crack wills of those whose perfect life, unwound.
The traffic hums, a steady pulse of life,
But sirens wail their lullabies of night,
The city’s heartbeat, unaware of strife,
Leave sunken chests and eyes without a light.
The city’s serenade, misleading song,
Broken backs on concrete, what could be wrong?
Prompt 6 – Celestial Bodies
Create a sonnet that draws inspiration from the stars, moon, and galaxies. Explore the connection between the cosmos and human experiences.
Beyond the veil of night, the stars align,
A canvas painted with celestial fire,
A language written in the heavens’ sign,
A map of stories that the skies inspire.
The moon, a guardian of dreams at night,
Its phases wax and wane in mystic dance,
A mirror to our hopes and fears in flight,
A guide through shadowed realms of circumstance.
Galaxies like love’s eye, vast and unknown,
With secrets whispered in their brilliant glow,
They sing of mysteries yet to be shown,
And tales of eons long gone by, they grow.
Celestial whispers, ancient and profound,
A cosmic library where truth is found.
Prompt 7 – Bittersweet Farewell
Write a sonnet centered around the theme of farewells and goodbyes. Reflect on the emotions tied to parting ways with someone or something, and create a sonnet that captures those complex moments.
A buoy, freshly minted, floats by free
‘Do you mind if I play Jimmy Buffet?’
I crack open a beer, ‘that’s fine by me’
Living in a cliche I just love it
Cheeseburger in Paradise plays loudly
Singing of American cheese and buns
Perfectly describes the scene of cloudy
skies, welcoming seas, and the yellow sun
It seems as though he had a song ready
For any occasion, we may be in
The sun is so warm, the breeze is steady
If only this perfect day could begin
But the sun is setting, we say goodbyes
Last night of vacation to golden glint skies