1. Birth of the Sonnet Tradition in English

1200-1250 Italian Sonnet invented by poet at the court of Emperor Frederick II in Sicily

1304-1374 Francesco Petrarca (modifies genre)

1557 Wyatt translates Petrarch's Sonnet No. 140

1549-1578 Explosion of French Sonnet Tradition

1591 Sidney's Astrophel & Stella (renounces Petrarch's influence on "English" Sonnet)

1591-98 Flood of Elizabethan Sonnets (imitate Sidney)

1609 Shakespeare's Sonnets printed


2. Definition, Types, & Associations

14 lines of iambic pentameter with a set rhyme scheme

A. Petrarchan (Italian) Sonnet

1. Rhyme Scheme: abba abba cde cde

[less common: abba abba cdc dcd or abba abba cdcdcd]

2. Argument: 2 sentence/sense units

octave = argument; sestet = answer

3. How Used: In English, primarily individual sonnets

4. Who Used: Milton, Wordsworth, Hopkins

5. Associations: dignity & solemnity; celebrations of great occasions or moments of vision

(Wordsworth, Milton); favored for religious themes (Donne)

B. Shakespearean (English) Sonnet

1. Rhyme Scheme: abab cdcd efef gg

2. Argument: considers event for three quatrains, brings to a succinct close in rhymed

couplet (often ends on a twist that may contradict what the rest of the sonnet affirmed).

3. How Used: often favored in sonnet sequences

4. Who Used: Drayton, Shakespeare

5. Associations: love poetry

C. Hybrid Sonnet

1. Rhyme Scheme: abba abba cdcd ee

[other variations: abab cdcd efgefg or

abab cdcd efefef or abba cddc effe gg]

2. Who Used: Sidney, Donne


3. Bibliography

Chase, William & Peter Collier. An Introduction to Literature. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.

Cruttwell, Patrick, The English Sonnet. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1966

Dacey, Philip & David Jauss. Strong Measures. NY: Harper & Row, 1986.