Sonnets and meter
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Sonnets and Meter. consisting of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter with a definite rhyme scheme and a definite thought structure. Sonnet Basics. five measures, units, or meters, of iambs

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Sonnet basics

Sonnet Basics

Iambic pentameter

  • five measures, units, or meters, of iambs

  • An iamb is a metrical foot consisting ofan unaccented syllable Ufollowed by an accented syllable /.

    U /

    a gain

    U / U /


Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter example

U / U / U / U / U /

  • One day I wrote her name u pon the strand,

    U / U / U / U / U /

  • But came the waves and wash ed it a way:

    U / U / U / U / U /

  • A gain I wrote it with a sec ond hand,

    U / U / U / U / U /

  • But came the tide, and made my pains his prey

    • ~Edmund Spenser, Amoretti, Sonnet 75

Iambic Pentameter Example

Rhyme schemes

  • Petrarchan (Italian) rhyme scheme:

    abba, abba, cd, cd, cd


    abba, abba, cde, cde

  • Shakespearean (English, or Elizabethan) rhyme scheme:

    abab, cdcd, efef, gg

Rhyme Schemes

Thought structure of sonnets

  • Octave/ sestet – Petrarchan Sonnets

    The octave, eight lines, presents a situation or idea.

    The sestet (sextet), six lines, responds, to the situation or idea in the octave.

  • Quatrain, quatrain, quatrain, couplet – Shakespearian Sonnets

    Each quatrain, four lines, describes and idea or situation which leads to a conclusion or response in the couplet, two lines.

Thought Structure of Sonnets

Petrarchan review

  • The Italian, or Petrarchan sonnet:

    • Fourteen lines

    • Iambic pentameter

    • Consists of an octet (eight lines) of two envelope quatrains

      • Usually abbaabba,

      • Sometimes abbacddc,

      • Or rarely abababab;

      • The turn occurs at the end of the octet and is developed and closed in the sestet.

    • And a sestet (six lines)

      • Which may rhyme xyzxyz

      • Or xyxyxy

Petrarchan Review

Shakespearian review

  • The English or Shakespearean sonnet:

    • Fourteen lines

    • Iambic pentameter

    • Consists of three quatrains(four lines)

    • And a couplet(two lines)

    • Rhymes: ababcdcdefefgg

    • The turn comes at or near line 13

Shakespearian Review


  • Now it’s your turn. Write an original sonnet, following the Petrarchan or Shakespearean style.

  • A sonnet can be helpful when writing about emotions that are difficult to articulate. It is a short poem, so there is only so much room to work in. As well, the turn forces the poet to express what may not be normally expressible. Hopefully, you'll find yourself saying things you didn't know you were going to say, didn't know you could say, but that give you a better understanding of the emotions that drive the writing of the poem.

  • The turn usually takes care of itself somehow, and the more the writer worries about it, the more difficult it will be to reach. As with any poem, let the structure guide you, not vice versa. If you allow the feel and movement of the sonnet to take the poem to the next line, the turn will happen and the sonnet will be well on its way to being complete.