This is the last in my three part series on Shakespeare, but perhaps it should have been my first since Shakespeare started his expansive writing career as a poet before he became a playwright. And in the year of 1593 he published his first long narrative poem of 199 stanzas “Venus and Adonis” a poem about the Goddess of Love who kin the words of Shakespeare “She is Love, she loves and yet is not loved” by the object of her ardent affections the handsome hunter Adonis.
Shakespeare wrote five such lengthy narrative poems in all, all of which were met with critical acclaim by the literary scholars of the day including the story of the “Rape of Lucrece” a story of lust, rape and revenge. Thus Shakespeare was an apt and intense story teller from the beginning.
But where Shakespeare really shines is in his mastery of the sonnet, A sonnet is a highly structured poem of 0nly 14 lines with an ABAB rhyme scheme in the body of the poem in perfect iambic pentameter and ending in a couplet of two lines with a CC rhyme scheme, the last two lines rhyming with each other. This particular form of poetry had it’s beginnings in the country of Italy but was adopted by the poets of England sometime in the middle ages. And although the subject matter was always about a man’s love for a perfect woman, the form had evoled to be about various subjects by Shakespeare’s time. For example in Shakespeare’s famous sonnet number 18 he compares a young man’s beauty to the beauty of summer which, unlike the season of summer, he makes eternal in the classic lines of his ;poem.
Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
By William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
So Shakespeare, of course, brought this form of poetry to it’s highest level, and this particular poem had that Wow factor for me. No wonder Shakespeare was considered the national poet of England and was dubbed the “Bard of Avon.” He wrote 154 sonnets, 5 book length narrative poems and about 37 plays in all, and he is a must read for English speaking writers of today. He set the bar,