How to Write a Sonnet Like Shakespeare | The Short and Simple Version

Source: Wikipedia Commons

By Josh Rueff on May 09, 2013
Less is not less but more, more is not more but is less – unless less becomes less by becoming more.

That being said, this is the formula for a sonnet:

The Shakespearean Sonnet

3 Quatrains + a Couplet = Sonnet.

Quick definition: A quatrain is a set of 4 lines. A couplet is a set of 2 lines.

It’s almost that simple. The sonnet is composed of nothing more, however, there are two more rules to follow while composing the sonnet:

Iambic Pentameter and Sonnet rhyming pattern.

Each line of the sonnet contains 5 sets of “iambs”.

The Iamb

Quick definition: One unstressed syllable, one stressed syllable.

Don’t get hung up on strange words – an iamb is simple – it sounds like this: baBOOM.

And looks like this: the CLOCK, or com PARE.

Iambic Pentameter

Quick definition: Iambic Pentameter is 5 sets of “iambs”.

Iambic Pentameter looks and sounds like this: baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM.

Example: When I / do COUNT / the CLOCK / that TELLS / the TIME

Sonnet rhyming pattern

Quick definition: ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG.


First quatrain

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day? A
Thou art more lovely and more temperate: B
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, A
And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date: B

Second quatrain
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, C
And oft’ is his gold complexion dimm’d; D
And every fair from fair sometime declines, C
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d: D

Third quatrain
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade E
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; F
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade, E
When in eternal lines to time thou growest: F

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, G
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. G

So a sonnet consists of 3 quatrains and a couplet, following the sonnet rhyming pattern and iambic pentameter.




  1. Kade L. May 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    I cannot believe Shakespeare wrote in all Iambic Pentameter. A little off subject but you have you seen the recent movie about Shakespeare, called “Anonymous?” Found it to be pretty entertaining and really makes you question who the real Shakespeare is. 🙂


    • Josh May 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      I have seen that movie actually – I enjoyed it as well! Pretty sure it’s historically inaccurate, but still worth watching!


  2. Kade L. May 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    You’re probably right 🙂


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