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What is a Sonnet
A sonnet is a 14-line poem that is written in iambic pentameter. The term “Iambic” refers to the type of foot or unit of rhythm which in this case is composed of a weaker syllable followed by a stressed syllable.
“Pentameter” refers to the number of feet in a line, which in case of the sonnet is five. Therefore each line in iambic pentameter consists of five 2-syllabled units of rhythm-essentially “Da dum da dum da dum da dum da dum” in most cases ‘da’ being the weaker syllable & ‘dum’ being the stressed syllable.
Types of Sonnet
The three traditional forms of sonnets are-
Italian sonnets are commonly known as Petrarchan sonnets, after the name of 14th-century Italian poet Petrarca who was also known as Petrarch.
A Petrarchan sonnet consists of an 8-line stanza called an ‘octave’, followed by a 6-line stanza called as ‘sestet’.
This type of sonnet is constructed with a change of thought between the octave & the sestet. E.g. the octave might tell of conflict & sestet telling of the solution.
The rhyme scheme of a Petrarchan sonnet is always abbaabba. The rhyme scheme of sestet may vary but the final two lines do not rhyme.
English sonnets are usually called Shakespearean sonnets, by famous poet & playwright, William Shakespeare. He wrote about 154 sonnets.
This type of sonnet has three 4-lined stanzas called ‘quatrains’ followed by a 2-line stanza called a ‘couplet’. This is the English Sonnet Structure.
The rhyming scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. Each stanza introduces a separate idea but is linked to other stanzas. The turn often comes between the final quatrain & the couplet.
Named after 16th century English poet Spenser. Spenserian sonnets are variations of Shakespearean sonnets that contain three quatrains followed by a couplet. Spenserian sonnets, however, in their rhyming scheme, interconnect the sounds of consecutive quatrains: abab bcbc cdcd ee. Example