The Appropriation of Classical Literature Forms from an Improvisational Perspective

An early draft of my graduate school thesis was my theory is that Del based the Harold form on the Petrarchan Sonnet.

Normally you break down a sonnet thusly by mapping the rhyme scheme:

Stanza 1:

Stanza 2:
Stanza 3:
Rhyming Couplet:

If instead of mapping the rhyme scheme, you map the thematic arc, you get something quite different. The sonnet is based on the introduction of an idea in the first stanza of four lines. The idea is then explored more deeply in the second stanza of four lines. Then the idea is blown out as far as possible in the third stanza of four lines. The fourth line of each stanza is there as mini-a punchline and not necessarily to add content, or as a punctuation to the stanza.  The poem is then concluded by examining all of the ideas that have been introduced in a single rhyming couplet.

Following a sonnet thematically instead of following the rhyme scheme would look like this:
Line 1A
Line 2A
Line 3A
Punctuation (A)
Line 1B
Line 2B
Line 3B
Punctuation (B)
Line 1C
Line 2C
Line 3C
Punctuation (C)
Rhyming Couplet

Basically, then, the Sonnet is an elongated Harold.  If you remove punctuation line C (these would be considered the group games), the Sonnet Form actually is a Harold.  Even the rhyming couplet would be what is referred to in the improv world as “Fantasy Island”, a beat that takes all of the characters introduced so far find themselves in the same place.  Shakespeare actually, then, invented the Harold form 400 years before Del Close.

…and that, my friends, is how to bluff your way through grad school.

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