English sonnets
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English Sonnets. The Renaissance – Tudor Period. Petrarch Sonnets. Francesco Petrarca – Italian poet and scholar , often referred to as the “Father of Humanism” Petrarch’s sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance. Elements of Petrarch Sonnets.

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English Sonnets

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English Sonnets

The Renaissance – Tudor Period


Petrarch Sonnets

  • Francesco Petrarca – Italian poet and scholar , often referred to as the “Father of Humanism”

  • Petrarch’s sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance


Elements of Petrarch Sonnets

  • 14 line poem written in iambic pentameter – the meter consists of 10 syllables, paired by alternating stresses of five iambic feet. An iambic foot – contains two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed

  • First 8 lines’ rhyme (abbaabba) = octave representing a problem, raising a question, or poses a possibility

  • Next 6 lines’ rhyme (cddcdc) = sestet in which the problem is solved, answered, or fulfilled


Elements of Petrarch Sonnets

  • Theme and attitude inspired by beauty and chivalry

  • Uses conceits or elaborate comparisons to describe the beauty of a girl. Ex: The lady’s eyes are like stars or suns in the sky


Sir Thomas Wyatt

  • Accomplished linguist, musician, and poet

  • Member of the royal court and was knighted in 1536

  • Trip to Italy in 1527 exposed him to the love poetry of Petrarch. Upon return to England, Wyatt began writing English imitations of Petrarchan sonnets


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

  • Member of the royal court but of higher status than Wyatt. He was cousin to Catherine, the fifth wife of Henry VIII

  • Overly prideful and executed for treason at 30 years-old


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

  • As a poet, Surrey was a lover of Petrarchan poetry; however, his love poems were more like artificial literary exercises than deep expressions of the mind or heart

  • Three important achievements:

    • smoothed the English meter – pronunciation changes made it difficult to fit into the pentameter structure

    • improvised the English sonnet – Surrey devised a three-part structure for the sonnet, the most widely used sonnet form in Elizabethan England. It requires fewer line repetitions than the Italian (ababcdcdefefgg)

    • invented blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) – enabled English Renaissance poets (Milton and Shakespeare) to create a national literature that would rival the literature of continental Europe


William Shakespeare

  • Sonnets are in the English form (ababcdcdefefgg)

  • The quatrains express units of thought and the couplet completes the thought and relates it to the main themes


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