Shakespeare's Sonnets Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Explain Shakespeare's innovations to the sonnet form that affected subject matter and style of versification in Shakespeare's sonnets.

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To understand Shakespeare's innovations to sonnets, it is necessary to understand the origin of sonnets. The original sonnet for was Petrarchan, meaning it was the form Petrarch used when he first developed the sonnet. He developed the sonnet as having fourteen lines and two parts, or stanzas, to it.

The first stanza was developed as an octave (eight lines). It had a set rhyme scheme that Petrarch did not vary. That Petrarchan rhyme scheme is abbaabba. The second stanza was developed as a sestet (six lines) with a rhyme scheme that may vary between five or six possible schemes, such as cdecde or cdeced or cdcdcd or cddcdc or cdcedc. Petrarch used no couplets.

Petrarch followed the poetic convention that a change in rhyme scheme accompanies a change in subject matter, therefore, the octave and sestet cover different...

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