Sonnets: Petrarchan and Shakespearean Styles
A sonnet is a form of poetry consisting of fourteen lines with a fairly strict structure and rhyme scheme. It is often written in iambic pentameter, though there are a number written in iambic hexameter as well. Iambic pentameter is five feet of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.
Iambic pentameter example:
He saw | below | the moon | a joy|ous sight.
(I have bolded the stressed syllables. Each foot is broken up by "|".)
Here I will be discussing two common types of sonnets: the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet.
A Petrarchan sonnet consists of an octet and a sestet. An octet is a group of eight lines, and in this case, it is often broken into two quatrains, groups of four lines. A sestet is a group of six lines, and it is commonly split into a quatrain and a couplet, a group of two rhyming lines.
One of the most common rhyme schemes for a Petrarchan sonnet is as follows:
a b b a a b b a c d c d e e
The octet is "a b b a a b b a," and with this rhyme scheme, the quatrains are both "a b b a."
The sestet is "c d c d e e," with the quatrain being "c d c d" and the couplet as "e e." Frequently the sestet occurs with the couplet before the quatrain as well.
Here are sonnets by Petrarch in the original Italian next to the English translation: http://italian.about.com/library/weekly/aa021600a.htm
Here are a number of sonnets written in the Petrarchan form by Thomas Wyatt: http://www.sonnets.org/wyatt.htm#003
A Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains and a couplet. A quatrain is a group of four lines, and a couplet is a group of two rhyming lines.
A Shakespearean sonnet is often laid out as follows:
a b a b c d c d e f e f g g
The first quatrain is "a b a b," then the second quatrain is "c d c d," and the third quatrain is "e f e f."
The couplet is "g g."
Here are sonnets written by Shakespeare: http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/sonnet/all.php