Expert Answers
dmcgillem eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A sonnet is simply another means to a creative, poetic end.  It has a very distinct form.  For example, the Elizabethan sonnet form (also referred to as the Shakespearean sonnet because of his vast contributions to the form) consists of fourteen lines.  Of these fourteen, the first twelve are divided into three sets of four lines, called a quatrain.  The last two lines are in the form of a couplet, a pair of rhyming lines.  

Each of these lines will typically have ten syllables arranged in iambic pentameter.  An iamb is two syllables, the first unaccented, the second receiving the stress.  However, many writers in the sonnet form, Shakespeare included, strayed from strict iambic pentameter on occasion when it suited their purpose.  

These lines will usually follow a very specific rhyme scheme, as well.

The first quatrain - abab

The second quatrain - cdcd

The third quatrain - efef

The final couplet - gg

A Shakespearean sonnet uses a basic thematic structure.

•First quatrain presents an idea or question with main metaphor
•Second and third quatrains explore the idea
•Final couplet is a conclusion
•The first two quatrains set up a problem
•The third quatrain begins to answer the problem
•Ending couplet tries to solve the problem
Authors use sonnets if they want to have a particular form with which to work, both structurally and thematically.  There is nothing magical about the form itself that lends itself to use, but writers over time have certainly created magic using the sonnet form.


albertson12 | Student

A sonnet is a poem that expresses a single, complete thought, idea, or sentiment. A sonnet must consist of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter (see below), with the rhymes arranged according to one of certain definite schemes.