What Is a Sonnet?

Topics: Sonnet, Poetry, Poetic form Pages: 1 (273 words) Published: February 23, 2013
A sonnet is a poetic form which originated in Italy; the Sicilian poet Giacomo da Lentini is credited with its invention. They normatively consist of fourteen lines. The term sonnet derives from the Italian word sonetto, meaning "little song." By the thirteenth century, it signified a poem of fourteen lines that follows a strict rhyme scheme and specific structure. Conventions associated with the sonnet have evolved over its history. Writers of sonnets are sometimes called "sonneteers," although the term can be used derisively. One of the best-known sonnet writers is William Shakespeare, who wrote 154 of them (not including those that appear in his plays). A Shakespearean, or English, sonnet consists of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter, in which a pattern of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable is repeated five times. The rhyme scheme in a Shakespearean sonnet is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a rhyming couplet.

Traditionally, English poets employ iambic pentameter when writing sonnets, but not all English sonnets have the same metrical structure. The first sonnet in Sir Philip Sidney's sequence Astrophel and Stella, for example, has 12 syllables; these lines are iambic hexameters, albeit with an inverted first foot in several lines. In the Romance languages, the hendecasyllable and Alexandrine are the most widely used metres.

1 Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet
2 Dante's variation
3 Occitan sonnet
4 English (Shakespearean) sonnet
5 Spenserian sonnet
6 Urdu Sonnet
7 Modern sonnet
8 See also
8.1 Types of sonnets
8.2 Groups of sonnets
8.3 Forms commonly associated with sonnets
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