What the heck is a sonnet?
A 14 line poem
Must have a strict rhyme scheme and structure,
although some poems have played with that
Comes from the Italian word “sonetto,” meaning
Petrarch, the great
Although he didn’t create the Sonnet, the Italian
poet Petrarch, is thought to have perfected its
early form. Therefore, early sonnets are called
1304 – 1374
Born and raised in Tuscany.
His father wanted him to train as a
lawyer, but he said, “I couldn’t face
making a merchandise of my mind.”
Ok, but who is Laura?
Petrarch was a priest for a short period. After he
left, he caught sight of a woman named “Laura”
who inspired him for years to come.
It is thought that they had little to no contact.
(She may have been married to another man.)
Is she real, or an idealized woman?
Ok, but I don’t speak Italian
Sir Thomas Wyatt traveled to Italy and brought
the form back with him.
Thanks to him, we have translations of Petrarch’s
poetry, in addition to his own sonnets.
Wyatt had an interesting role in history, which
you’ll learn about shortly.
Two parts, an octet (8 lines) and a sestet (6
The octet presents an argument, a problem, or
some kind of initial idea.
The sestet responds to it, solves it, or makes a
comment on it. Shifts in tone.
The two sections are meant to be separate.
Octet (sometimes called
- Translated by Wyatt
The long love that in my thought doth harbor,
And in mine heart doth keep his residence,
Into my face presseth with bold pretense
And therein campeth, spreading his banner.
She that me learneth to love and suffer
And will that my trust and lust's negligence
Be reined by reason, shame, and reverence
With his hardiness taketh displeasure.
Wherewithal unto the heart's forest he fleeth,
Leaving his enterprise with pain and cry,
And there him hideth, and not appeareth.
What may I do, when my master feareth,
But in the field with him to live and die?
For good is the life ending faithfully.
Shakespearean sonnets are sometimes called
The phrase I have always heard is, Wyatt
brought the form to England, and Shakespeare
(a generation later), perfected it.
Instead of the octet (8 lines), Shakespearean
sonnets use 3 sets of quatrains, or four lines.
It adds a couplet at the end.
The stanzas often either repeat a theme, or
elaborate on that theme. So if you don’t get the
first four lines, move on to the next. It might
explain it for you.
The couplet adds a “twist” or sometimes closure
to the poem.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.