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A sonnet cycle is a group of sonnets, arranged to address a particular person or theme, and designed to be read both as a collection of fully-realized individual poems and as a single poetic work comprising all the individual sonnets.
A sonnet cycle may have any theme, but unrequited love is the most common. The arrangement of the sonnets generally reflects thematic concerns, with chronological arrangements (whether linear, like a progression, or cyclical, like the seasons) being the most common. A sonnet cycle may also have allegorical or argumentative structures which replace or complement chronology.
While the thematic arrangement may reflect the unfolding of real or fictional events, the sonnet cycle is very rarely narrative; the narrative elements may be inferred, but provide background structure, and are never the primary concern of the poet's art.
Notable sonnet cycles have been written by Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Pierre de Ronsard, Edmund Spenser, Rupert Brooke, Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare, John Donne, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Rainer Maria Rilke.
- Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles, edited by Martha Foote Crow, covering Phillis, by Thomas Lodge, and Licia, by Giles Fletcher, from Project Gutenberg
- Elizabethan Sonnet Cycles, edited by Martha Foote Crow, covering Delia, by Samuel Daniel, and Diana, by Henry Constable, from Project Gutenberg
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