Why Sonnets are Categorised into Two but with Six Types

Six Major Types of Sonnets And Its Examples

Why Sonnets are Categorised into Two but with Six Types & Different Rhyme Scheme 

SONNET: It is a fourteen lines poem or sometimes eleven and is written in iambic pentameter, each lines has 10 syllables with specific rhyme scheme. Generally sonnets are divided into different groups based on the rhyme scheme they follow.

A Sonnet is a fourteen lines poem or sometimes eleven and it’s written in iambic pentameter, each lines has 10 syllables with specific rhyme scheme.

The sonnets are categorised into six major types. They are: Italian Sonnet, Shakespearean Sonnet, Spenserian Sonnet, Miltonic Sonnet, Terza Rima Sonnet, Curtal Sonnet. Let’s look at how these sonnets work in literature.


This type of sonnet was introduced by an Italian poet Francesco Petrarch in the 14th century. The rhyme scheme of Petrarchan sonnet has first eight lines called octet that rhymes as abba-abba and the six lines called sestet rhymes cdc-dcd. Example is “Visions” by Francesco Petrarch.


Being one day at my window all alone, So manie strange things happened me to see, As much as it grieveth me to think thereon.
At my right hand a hynde appear’d to mee,
So faire as mote the greatest god delite;
Two eager dogs did her pursue in chance.
Of which the one was blacke, the other white: With deadly force so in their cruell race

They pincht the haunches of that gentle beast, That at the last, and in short time, I spide, Under a rocke, where she alas, opprest,
Fell to the ground, and there untimely dide. Cruell death vanquishing so noble beautie
Oft makes me wayle so hard a desire.

NB: the above is the English translation of the Italian language by Francesco done by Edmund Spenser.


A Shakespearean Sonnet is generally written in an iambic pentameter, there are 10 syllables in each line. It is made up of three quatrains (12 lines) for the introduction, exposition and argument of the related ideas and examples and a couplet (2 lines) for the poet’s affirmation, denial or conclusion and it rhymes abab-cdcd-efef-gg.

Example is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 154


The little love-god lying once asleep,
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
And so the General of hot desire
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.

This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from love’s fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy,
For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall
Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
Love’s fire heats water, water cools not l0ve

The first line: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The little love-god lying once asleep,
That makes up 10 syllable in the English Sonnet.


This is a type of sonnet which rhymes abab-bcbc-cdcd-ee. Such rhyme scheme was introduced by Edmund Spenser who modified the Petrarch’s sonnet. Example is Amoretti by Edmund Spenser.


One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
“Vain man,” said she, “that dost in vain assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalise;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise.
“Not so, “(quod I) “let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:

My verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where when as deàth shall all the world subdue,
Our l0ve shall live, and later life renew.”


This is a type of sonnet that rhymes abba-abba-cde-cde, and it’s done by John Milton in the 17th century. Milton took the sonnet out of the category of “love poems” and brought it into the world of politics and social issues.

A Miltonic Sonnet is: A quatorzain, enjambment is used to tighten the sonnet, leaving the 14 lines unbroken by stanzas. Metered, iambic pentameter Pivot evolves slowly after line 8 Composed around the themes of moral issues and political insights.

Example is On His Blindness by John Milton.


When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is deàth to hide
Lodged with the useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?
I fondly ask, but Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: God doth not need
Either man’s works or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yolk, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.


This is composed of a three-line stanza woven into a rhyme scheme that requires the end-word of the second line in one tercet to supply the rhyme for the first and third lines in the following tercet. Thus, the rhyme scheme is aba-bcb-cdc-ded continues through to the final stanza or line.

Terza rima is written in an iambic pentameter in English example is “Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.


O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, o hear!


A sonnet of eleven lines rhyming abcabc-dcbdc or abcabc-dbcdc with the last line a tail or half a line. The term was used by Gerard Manley Hopkins example is “Pied Beauty”


Glory be to God for dappled things- –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

            Praise Him.

Sonnet is however falls under two major categories. Sonnet is either Italian or English, and in most books it is taught and referred to as the two types of sonnet. Compare the above rhyme scheme with the below poem by the author.


No sooner has the longest sun get set
All worries will go if only she let
The queen of the earth will, will make merry
If sands can engage the queen and marry
Her rolls will not interrupt with finest sweep
Far away, away from the silence deep
The voices of the queen will-will be heard
If the rocks of the shores witness, not speared

The queen will forever enjoy her reign
The sky could halt showering the queen with rain
Yet, her waters would still be supreme-wide
Her pretty tide will ride from side to side
And with a deepest sound she screams at night
Yes I’m the queen that has a great might


Joyceline Natally Cudjoe

An Entertainment Columnist, Content Writer, Blogger, Novelist, Poet, and a Publicist. For business or story tip off, contact me on +233 24 646 6866 or email: [email protected]

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