Poetry appreciation

What the sonnets tell us about Shakespeare

When Romeo and Juliet first meet at a party, their words to one another fall into the form of a sonnet: an exchange of 14 lines, expressing mutual love and ending with a neat rhyming couplet and a kiss. It is a touching, haunting moment, and like so much in Shakespeare, it also has an opposite. A little earlier in the play, Juliet’s mother Lady Capulet tries to praise Romeo’s rival Paris, and describes the hapless Paris in a horrible string of six rhyming couplets (‘This precious book of love, this unbound lover,/ To beautify him, only lacks a cover’). These 12 lines fail as a sonnet, where Romeo’s and