What is a Sonnet: An Overview

Sonnet is a very popular type of poem that is often used during the old English time. The purpose of the poem is to express a thought, idea, or emotion in an organized fashion. Some people would compare a sonnet to modern day rap or poetry slam. Even William Shakespeare is famous for creating memorable sonnets. He is best known for sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. Keep in mind that Shakespeare is not the only one who is passionate about sonnets. Thomas Wyatt and Earl Saray are also famous sonnet writers in the mid-16th century. Wyatt was known for writing poetry about his love for Anne Boleyn. The sonnet originates from Italy during the Renaissance era. The word sonnet came from the Italian word Sonetto which means “little song” or “little sound.”

The sonnet is written in a simple, organized format. You can identify this type of poem by its form. It has 14 lines that are broken down into different sections called quatrain. There is a straight rhythm scheme which is ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, and GG. The sonnet is written in iambic pentameter which are poetic meters that contain ten beats per line and made up of alternating stress and unstressed syllables. As mentioned earlier, the sonnet is broken down into four sections called quatrain. The first three quatrains encompass four lines with an alternating rhyme scheme.


The final quadrains contain two lines that both rhymes. The first quatrain contains four lines in ABAB thematic scheme. The first quatrain focuses on establishing the subject of the sonnet. The second quatrain emphasizes on the sonnet’s theme. This quatrain will also contain four lines and a cdcd rhythm scheme. The third quatrain will further support the theme, contain four lines, and an EFEF rhythm scheme. The fourth quatrain helps finish off the sonnet with a conclusion. It comprises two lines with a rhyming scheme of GG. The fourth quatrain will ultimately rhyme and provide a strong ending for the poem.

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The sonnet poem is often taught in high school English to educate teens in the art of poetry. It also helps improve the way adolescence express their thoughts and feelings through words. Because of its specific 14 line and quatrain format, these young individuals would have to be creative on how they shape and form their sentences in order to create the sonnet. Because of its variations and flow, the sonnet is a great form of poetry to express your thoughts and emotions.


Throughout the educational process, English literature at the college level has begun to dwell more on the subject of poetry and sonnets. Ph.D. level graduates are exploring and analyzing this poetry to get a better understanding of the writers in the past era. Because sonnet has played an active part in literature throughout our educational process, it has become not only a way to express our thoughts, but also an educational culture that make us think and wonder about the things around us.