Difference Between English and Italian Sonnet

Sonnet is a universal type of poetry. A sonnet is a poem with a specified rhyming scheme and has a rhythmical, almost song-like pronunciation to it while elucidating.


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A sonnet is of six types, two of which are English sonnet, Italian sonnet They are differentiated mainly based on their rhyming scheme and the structure or the division of the lines.

English vs Italian Sonnet

The difference between English Sonnet and Italian Sonnet is the structuring of the lines. Since all the sonnets have only 14 lines, the Italian sonnet has an octet(8 lines) and a sestet(6 lines) whereas the English sonnet has 3 quatrains(4 lines) and 1 couplet( 2 lines).

English vs Italian sonnet

Though Shakespeare was not the one to first write an English sonnet, he was the most renowned one and therefore, the sonnet was named after him.

An Italian sonnet can also be called Petrarchan sonnet and was first made at the beginning of 11 A.D. Much like the English sonnet, the Italian sonnet was also not first written by Petrarch but was named so because he was the most renowned Italian sonnet writer of the time.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonEnglish SonnetItalian Sonnet
Alternate nameShakespearean sonnetPetrarchan sonnet
Origin16 A.D.11 A.D.
Line distributionQuatrains(4 lines) and a couplet(2 lines)Octets(8 lines) and sestets(6 lines)
Structure of a sonnetThe first two quatrains have the problem while the third quatrain and the couplet have the solutionThe octet introduces the problem while the sestet tells the solution
RhymingIt is relatively easy to find the rhymeIt is hard to rhyme because it was originally made for the Italian language
Position of voltaThird quatrainNinth line

What is an English Sonnet?

An English sonnet first made at the beginning of 16th A.D.

The main characteristics of the English sonnet are the line distribution of 3 quatrains of 4 lines each and a couplet of 2 lines.

The first quatrain introduces the problem while the second quatrain elaborates the same. The third quatrain gives the solution and the rhyming couplet concludes the sonnet.

It was named after William Shakespeare as Shakespearean sonnet as he was a renowned English sonnet writer. He has volumes of books of self-written sonnets with beautifully constructed rhyming schemes.

english sonnet

What is an Italian Sonnet?

An Italian sonnet was first made in the 11th A.D. much earlier than the English sonnet.

The Italian sonnet, unlike the English sonnet, has only two parts: an octet of 8 lines and a sestet of 6 lines.

Like any other sonnet, Italian sonnet also addresses a problem and poses a solution to it through the intricate and specified rhyming scheme.

It is relatively more difficult to find English words fitting the Italian sonnet rhyming scheme because it was originally made to be written in the Italian language.

italian sonnet

Main Differences Between English Sonnet and Italian Sonnet

  1. It is relatively easier to find a rhyming scheme and the right words for an English sonnet while writing in English. This is because the Italian sonnet was originally first made to be written in the Italian language and finding the words to match the rhyming scheme of the sonnet can be difficult.
  2. The position of volta is also different for the two sonnets. While it is found in the third quatrain in an English sonnet, it is found in the 9th line of the Italian sonnet(or the first line of the sestet).


  1. http://search.proquest.com/openview/c696cda3a2795d3ea7576b7f18f99d56/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1816494
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ZFMOAAAAIAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=English+and+Italian+Sonnet&ots=atTNI4U6lv&sig=ygIK0KiI3o4UZLdjnOE408XL9V4
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