English vs Italian Sonnet: Difference and Comparison

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

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

Key Takeaways

  1. English sonnets, also known as Shakespearean sonnets, consist of 14 lines divided into three quatrains and a final rhymed couplet; Italian sonnets, or Petrarchan sonnets, also have 14 lines but are divided into an octave and a sestet.
  2. The rhyme scheme of English sonnets is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, while Italian sonnets use ABBA ABBA and a variable rhyme scheme for the sestet, such as CDECDE or CDCDCD.
  3. English sonnets develop an argument or explore a theme through the three quatrains. The final couplet provides a resolution or twist; Italian sonnets present a problem or situation in the octave, followed by a resolution or reflection in the sestet.

English vs. Italian Sonnet

An English Sonnet consists of three 4-line stanzas (quatrain) along with 2-line stanzas (couplet). The quatrain develops an idea, and the couplet concludes it. It consists of eight-line stanzas (octave) and six-line stanzas (sestet). Octave presents a problem, and Sestet gives the solution.

English vs Italian sonnet

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Shakespeare was not the one to first write an English sonnet, but he was the most renowned one, so 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 solution.The 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RhymingIt is relatively easy to find the rhymeIt is hard to rhyme because it was originally made for the Italian language.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 was first made at the beginning of the 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 one elaborates. 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.

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

Like any other sonnet, the Italian sonnet also addresses a problem and poses a solution 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 the 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

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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