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Poetry Guide: Sonnet cycle

The sonnet cycle is a series of sonnets usually on a given theme, dedicated to a particular individual, or both.

As such, it is designed to be read both as a whole, and with each constituent sonnet as an individual poem in its own right. It may have any theme, however, love is the most common.

Sonnet cycles have the primary advantage of allowing the poet to explore many different aspects of the given theme, thereby expanding the depth and complexity of its treatment. The sonnets may or may not be considered isolated, as a number of cycles have created a sequence, or narrative, allowing the development of the theme to be seen as a form of argument.

Notable sonnet cycles have been written by Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Pierre de Ronsard, Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare, John Donne, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

See also