Spenserian Sonnet

Edmund Spenser's 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. The Spenserian sonnet was developed by Edmund Spenser

What is the structure of the Spenserian Sonnet?

Quatrain #1 abab

Quatrain #2 bcbc

Quatrain #3 cdcd

Couplet ee

How does Spenser's Sonnet Form differ from others?

The Spenserian sonnet uses couplet links between quatrain (bb, cc) to make a more musical and closely developed argument, and it tends to reduce the sometimes excessive assertiveness of the final rhyming couplet. 

Each quatrain develops a specific idea, but the ideas are closely related because their rhyme overlaps. The rhyming couple develops a different idea or commentary than the previous quatrains. 

Spenser used a similar rhyme scheme in the stanza pattern of his work The Faerie Queen. The Spenserian Stanza is nine lines and uses the rhyme scheme: ababbcbcc. The first eight lines are in iambic pentameter and the last line is in iambic hexameter (alexandrine). 

Edmund Spenser's Sonnet Sources

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