A Section on Sonnets

Contributor: Rebecca Hann. Lesson ID: 10905

Quatrains, couplets, abab. What do they mean? Shakespeare used them in writing sonnets! Sonnets are expressive lyric poems, and you will read two, watch informative videos, and even write your own!


Literary Studies

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


sonnet comic

Although a sonnet is a type of lyric poem, there are specific elements that make certain poems sonnets.

There are two types of sonnets. The most famous writer of sonnets is William Shakespeare. He is so infamously known for his sonnet writing, there is a type of sonnet named after him! The other type of sonnet is named after the famous Italian poet, Petrarch.

Shakespearean sonnets:

  • are grouped in four sets of lines (three sets of quatrains and a couplet at the end).
  • have a set rhyme scheme (abab, cdcd, efef, gg).
  • present twelve lines that consistently work together, with a conclusion or alteration in the couplet at the end of the poem.

Petrarchan sonnets:

  • are made of two parts (eight lines in the first part, six lines in the second).
  • have a set rhyme scheme, meaning that the pattern of rhyme is the same for each sonnet (Part 1- abba abba; Part 2- cdecde or cdcdcd. The letters represent a change in rhyme).
  • present an answerable charge in the first part (the octave) and answer this charge in the second part (the sestet).

For more information about sonnets, check out the following videos:

As you can see, a sonnet is still poetry; it just follows specific rules. Petrarch and Shakespeare wrote many, many sonnets in their lives; perhaps you will write many, too!

In the meantime, continue on to the Got It? section to further examine the two types of sonnets.

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