An examination of the sonnet from Petrarch to Browning.
A sonnet is a poem, which traditionally contains the subject of love.
The creator of the sonnet was a man named Francesco Petrarca who was
usually referred to as Petrarch. Petrarch wrote many of his sonnets
based upon himself, and his lover, Laura. The conventional format of a
sonnet contains fourteen lines, and is segregated to illustrate two
arguments. Every sonnet takes the conventional format of fourteen
lines, although the way the arguments are split up, may be different.
For example, Petrarch and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sonnet both
take the format of an octave and a sestet, whereas Shakespeare's
sonnet takes the format of three quatrains and a rhyming couplet. The
arguments usually comprise of love juxtaposed against its opposite.
For example, love versus hate, and love versus death.
I have chosen to compare three sonnets. I will compare the subject of
their sonnet, the form of the sonnet, and the way that they depict
their argument in their sonnet. For example, how they have set out the
sonnet, and their use of language. I have chosen to compare,
Petrarch's, "XLL," and Shakespeare's, "Sonnet 138," and Barrett
The three sonnets that I have selected all contain the subject of
love, but do not compose of the same aspect of love. The subject of,
"Sonnet XXL," is about a woman named Laura, with whom the author
Francesco Petrarch fell deeply in love with, even though she did not
return his affections. Shakespeare's, "Sonnet 138," is about the
experience of being in love. He writes from a masculine perspective,
describing his lover as, "Unchaste, unfaithful, and dishonest."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's, "Sonnet XLIII," is about the quality of
love. She is writing about her present husband, Browning, to whom she
fell deeply in love with.
The Petrarchan sonnet is in the form of an octave and a sestet, which
explores the persona's experience of unrequited love. In the octave,
Petrarch is searching for his lost lover, Laura. This can be proven in
the first line of the sonnet, "A thousand times to make my peace I
sought." The persona describes his deep love for Laura by using
descriptive and metaphorical language. He elevates Laura to a high
point by using religious imagery, while he is still below her. "And
offer you my heart; but little thought had your proud spirit to look
down so low." This line also tells us that the persona had offered his
love to Laura, but she rejected it; she did not return his affections.
From the fourth line and onwards, love is described as being
imprisoned. "Yet if another would that heart enchain," is an example
of this. He believes that Laura is not accepting his love because she
has changing dreams and hopes, which are just imaginary. "She lives in
fickle hopes and dreams untrue." He is also speaking about how any
other woman would have hopes and dreams about capturing his heart