A sonnet is a poem, typically containing fourteen lines.

Here I will present 3⃣ basic types of sonnets.

Shakespearean (English)

The Shakespearean sonnet usually follows iambic pentameter (10 syllables per line).

💙 Rhyme scheme: ababcdcdefefgg

💜 Composition: comprised of 3⃣ quatrains (a stanza of 4⃣ lines) and a concluding couplet (a stanza of 2⃣ lines).

“From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die.
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee…”

- Shakespeare, Sonnet 1


 Italian (Petrarchan) Sonnet

The Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet was introduced in the 14th century by the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch.

💙 Rhyme scheme: abbaabbacdcdcd

💜 Composition: Made up of an octet (8⃣ lines) followed by a sestet (6⃣ lines)

💛 Example:
“Being one day at my window all alone,
So manie strange things happened me to see,
As much as it grieveth me to thinke thereon.
At my right hand a hynde appear’d to mee,
So faire as mote the greatest god delite;
Two eager dogs did her pursue in chace.
Of which the one was blacke, the other white:
With deadly force so in their cruell race
They pincht the haunches of that gentle beast,
That at the last, and in short time, I spide,
Under a rocke, where she alas, opprest,
Fell to the ground, and there untimely dide.
Cruell death vanquishing so noble beautie
Oft makes me wayle so hard a desire.”

- Petrarch, Being one day at my window



The Spenserian sonnet was the first new type of sonnet derived from the Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet.

💙 Rhyme scheme: abab–bcbc–cdcd–ee

💜 Composition: same as Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet

💛 Example:
“What guile is this, that those her golden tresses
She doth attire under a net of gold;
And with sly skill so cunningly them dresses,
That which is gold or hair, may scarce be told?
Is it that men’s frail eyes, which gaze too bold,
She may entangle in that golden snare;
And being caught may craftily enfold
Their weaker hearts, which are not yet well aware?
Take heed therefore, mine eyes, how ye do stare
Henceforth too rashly on that guileful net,
In which if ever ye entrapped are,
Out of her bands ye by no means shall get.
Folly it were for any being free,
To covet fetters, though they golden be.”

- Spenser, What Guile Is This?


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