John Donne's Holy Sonnets Questions and Answers
by John Donne

Start Your Free Trial

What are some of the typical elements of John Donne's "Holy Sonnets," including formal elements, moods, themes, imagery, and situations?

Expert Answers info

Robert C. Evans eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write2,994 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Although each of John Donne’s “Holy Sonnets” is by definition a unique and distinctive poem, the “Holy Sonnets” as a group nevertheless often share common traits. Among these traits are the following:


  • All the poems are sonnets with the conventional 14 lines and with a division between the first eight lines (the octave) and the last six lines (the sestet). The octave rhymes in the manner associated with the Italian poet Petrarch: abbaabba. The sestet closes with a couplet. Lines 9-12 can vary in rhyme patterns. The sonnets' lines typically consist of ten syllables with a basic iambic pattern (in which the even syllables are emphasized), although Donne plays wonderful variations on this basic scheme.  Other formal elements frequently consist of puns, paradoxes, similes, metaphors, alliteration , assonance, etc. – in other words, the full arsenal of techniques that make for...

    (The entire section contains 432 words.)

    Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial