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English Sonnet

English Sonnet

A sonnet is fundamentally a dialectical construct, which allows the poet to examine the nature and ramifications of two usually contrasted ideas, emotions, states of mind, beliefs, action, events, images, etc. by juxtaposing the two against each other, and possibly resolving or just revealing the tensions created by and/or operate between the two (1).


The sonnet is thought to originate in Italy, and created by Giacomo Da Lentini.


The word "sonnet" derives from the Italian word "sonetto," which means a little sound or song. 


The sonnet was introduced to England by Sir Thomas Wyatt in the early 16th century. He mostly translated the Italian sonnets of Petrarch. Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, developed the rhyme scheme of the English Sonnet; he was also a Petrarchan sonnet translator. The English sonnet form is sometimes referred to as the Shakespearean sonnet, not because he invented it, but because he is considered to be the most famous practitioner of the form. 

What are the characteristics of an English Sonnet?

Traditionally it is a poem of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. It is one of the oldest verse forms found in English. The sonnet originated in Italy, and introduced to England in the early sixteenth century by Sir Thomas Wyatt. It is also known as the Shakespearean sonnet.

A sonnet usually revolves around the love for some woman; one exception being Shakespeare's sequence of 154 sonnets. 

How are English Sonnet's structured?


Quatrain #1 abab

Quatrain #2 cdcd

Quatrain #3 efef  usually introduces an unexpected dramatic thematic or imagery turn

Turn (volta)

Couplet gg  In Shakespeare's sonnets the turn usually comes in the couplet, and usually summarizes the theme of the poem or introduces a fresh new look at the theme. 


English Sonnet Sources

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