Sonnet Vocabulary

Sonnet Series
100 to 150 sonnets addressed to the same person – usually a lady.

Petrarchan (Italian) Sonnet
A sonnet consisting of an octave rhyming abbaabba and of a sestet using any arrangement of two or three additional rhymes, such as cdcdcd or cdecde

Shakespearean Sonnet
A sonnet rhyming ABAB CDCDCD EFEF GG; its content or structure ideally parallels the rhyme scheme, falling into three coordinate quatrains and a concluding couplet; also known as an English Sonnet

Iambic pentameter
A poetic meter consisting of lines with five “feet” (groups of syllables) in each, and having an “iamb” foot (unstressed then stressed syllable) dominant in each.

Quatrain
A verse of poetry consisting of four lines,

Couplet
Two lines of verse that form a unit alone or as part of a poem

Laura
The woman addressed in Petrarch’s Sonnet Series

The Dark Lady
Shakespeare writes sonnets about this mysterious and exciting woman. She had dark hair and dark complexion. Renaissance preferred blond hair and fair skin as a mark of beauty.

Turn
A shift in focus or thought in a sonnet; also called a volta

Thomas Wyatt
Introduced the sonnet into English in the early 16th C. Translated Petrarch’s sonnets and wrote his own.

Mr. W.H.
Mentioned as the “only begetter” of Shakespeare’s sonnets

Sonnet
“little song”
A poem almost invariably of fourteen lines and following one of several set rhyme schemes. The sonnet developed in Italy probably in the 13th century and was raised to its greatest perfection by Petracrch in the 14th century. It was brought to England by Wyatt and Surrey.

English Sonnet
A sonnet consisting of three quatrains followed by a couplet. Rhyming abab cdcd efef gg. Shakespearian sonnet

Spenserian Sonnet
has three quatrains and a couplet but features quatrains joined by the uses of linking rhymes: abab bcbc cdcd ee.

Miltonic Sonnet
Variation on the Italian Sonnet, in which the rhyme scheme is kept but the “turn” between the octave and the sestet is eliminated.

Italian Sonnet
Divided into an octave rhyming abbabba and a sestet rhyming cdecde; also known as a Petrarchan sonnet

Volta
The turn in thought – from question to answer, problem to solution – that occurs at the beginning of the sestet in the Italian sonnet. The volta occurs between the twelfth and thirteenth lines in a Shakespearian sonnet and does not necessarily appear in a Miltonic sonnet.

Octave
An eight line Stanza. In sonnets the first Eight-line division of an Italian sonnet.

Octet
Synonym for octave

Sestet
The second, six-line division of an Italian sonnet.

Caudate Sonnet
A standard fourteen-line sonnet is augmented by the addition of other lines, including “tails.”

Sonnet Cycle or Sequence
A connected group of sonnets

Curtal Sonnet
Gerard Manley Hopkins’s name for a sonnet that has been curtailed, or shortened, to parts consisting of six lines and four and a half lines.

Crown of Sonnets
Seven sonnets interlinked by having the last line of the first form the first line of the second, the last line of the second from the first line of the third, and so forth, with the last line of the last sonnet repeating the first line of the first.

Link Sonnet
An English Sonnet in which the three quatrains are linked by repeating the second rhyme of one quatrain as the first rhyme of the succeeding quatrain.