Essay on Origins and Explanations of The Sonnet

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Origins and Explanations of The Sonnet

The sonnet originates in Italy in the 12th and 13th century. The term comes from the Italian for "little song" and the best known Italian sonneteers were Dante and Francesco Petrarca. Petrarch proved most influential on the sonnet's successive history, leaving his predominant theme of secular love as well as the form itself to subsequent poets. In 14th century Italy the sonnet was clearly established in as a major form of love poetry.

The sonnet is a lyric poem comprised of 14 rhyming lines of equal length utilising a variety of different rhyme schemes, but usually in five-foot iambic pentameters in English. While there is a wide number of varying
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The standard courtly love subject matter of early sonnets was extended in the 17th century by John Donne into religion, while Milton extended it to politics. The early eighteenth century saw a decline in the sonnet's popularity, but there were the odd successes and attempts by poets who did not use the sonnet often. Although largely neglected in the 18th century, the sonnet was revived in the 19th by Wordsworth, Keats and Baudelaire, and is still widely used. Irregular variations on the sonnet form have included the 12-line sonnet sometimes used by Elizabethan poem.

The Petrarchan sonnet is distinguished by having a two part division; the sonnet's rhyme scheme divides the poem's 14 lines into two parts, an octave and a sestet. The rhyme scheme for the octave is typically: abba abba. While there are a few possibilities for the sestet, including: cdecde, cdccdc, or cdedce.

The octave presents a problem or situation which is then resolved or commented on in the sestet. The transition from octave to sestet usually coincides with a 'turn' in the argument or mood of the poem. This divides the thought into two opposing or complementary phases of the same idea

The octave and sestet division is not always kept; the rhyme-scheme is often varied, but within limits, no Italian sonnet has more than five rhymes. Iambic pentameter is essentially the meter.

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