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Information gathered from: http://www.sonnets.org/basicforms.htm
The sonnet is one of the most popular poetic forms, and writers from the medieval period to the present day have employed it. It is a 14-line poem, usually with ten syllables in each line. There are several ways in which the lines can be organized. In a sonnet, the poet contrasts two different ideas with each other. What is a Sonnet?
Every Sonnet includes a “volta,” which means turn. This indicates a change in subject matter. EVERY SONNET SHOULD INCLUDE A VOLTA. The placement of the volta indicates they type of sonnet we are dealing with. “The Volta” (Turn)
Types of Sonnets The three most well-known Sonnet forms are the Italian (Petrarchan) Sonnet, English (Shakespearean) Sonnet, and Spenserian Sonnet.
This is also called the Petrarchan Sonnet, after the poet who created the form. Petrarch was an Italian humanist who was infatuated with a woman named Laura. His sonnets are mainly dedicated to her. Italian Sonnet
An Italian/Petrarchan Sonnet is divided into an octave (a group of eight lines) and a sestet (a group of six lines) The octave proposes a problem. The sestet proposes a solution. Italian Sonnet Structure
Like Spenser, Shakespeare’s Sonnets are usually composed of 3 Quatrains and 1 Couplet. However, the rhyme scheme is much simpler – abab, cdcd, efef, gg. Shakespeare doesn’t consistently place his volta; instead, he varies the position according to the poem. Shakespearean Sonnets
This was invented by Edmund Spenser for use in his poetic epic The Faerie Queen. Spenser divides his sonnets into three quatrains (4 lines) and a couplet (2 lines). The rhyme scheme is abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee. This allows for the ideas to overlap with each other rather than to standalone. Unlike an Italian sonnet, there isn’t a problem/resolution structure. Spenser’s volta generally doesn’t occur until the couplet, although his use of transition words can trick you into thinking it comes earlier. Spenserian Sonnet