illustrated portrait of Anne Boleyn, the subject of Wyatt's poem

Whoso List to Hunt

by Sir Thomas Wyatt

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Which Italian poet inspired Wyatt's sonnets in "Whoso List to Hunt," and how did Wyatt alter the pattern?

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When writing ‘Whoso list to Hunt?’, Wyatt uses a variation on the sonnet form devised by Francesco Petrarcha, or Petrarch as he is more commonly known. The Pertrarchan sonnet form consists of 14 lines. In the octet, formed by the first eight lines, the writer introduces a concern which is then addressed or debated in the sestet – the remaining six lines of the poem.

Wyatt was responsible for introducing the Petrarchan sonnet form to England. Many of Wyatt’s popular poems were translations of Petrarch’s work. For example, Wyatt’s  ‘I Find No Peace’ is a translation of Petrarch’s sonnet 104, and Wyatt’s ‘My Galley Charged’ is a translation of Petrarch’s sonnet 189.

Wyatt altered the form by introducing iambic pentameter to the form and varying the rhyming structure This adaptation was adopted by many of the English writers who subsequently utilized the sonnet form, including William Shakespeare.

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