Sonnet

The sonnet is one of the most popular forms of poetry in European literature.

The common defining feature of English-language sonnets is the meter: iambic pentameter.

In the English language, poets have usually used either the English (or Shakespearean) sonnet form or the Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet.

English Sonnet

The English sonnet is the most common for English-language poets. It consists of twelve lines (three quatrains) and a rhyming couplet:

a
b
a
b
c
d
c
d
e
f
e
f
g
g

The initial twelve lines generally set up a problem or frame a discussion; the final two lines provide a conclusion.

Italian Sonnet

The Italian sonnet is divided into an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The rhyme scheme of the octave is generally one of two options:

Earlier form Later form
a a
b b
a b
b a
a a
b b
a b
b a

The sextet usually has one of three options:

c c c
d d d
e c c
c c d
d d c
e c d

In Italian sonnets, the octave sets up the problem; the sestet resolves the problem, or comments on it.

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