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THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ENGLISH SONNET


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Seminar paper from the year 2006 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,3, Ruhr-University of Bochum (Englisches Seminar), 8 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Since its invention in the south of Italy around 1235 A.D. , the sonnet has been used by numerous poets as a form of literary expression, but surprisingly, its main features remained nearly unaltered throughout the centuries . However, the sonnet has undergone a very dynamic development, which I will try to at least partly describe in this paper. A sonnet, 'per definitionem' consists out of 'only' 14 hendecasyllabic lines of verse, which break into octet and sestet, yet it is still considered a major lyric genre used by authors to this very day. The term 'sonnet' or 'sonetto' originally meant (in 'Provençal') 'short lyric poem' (or 'light poem'). However, due to the massive amount of sonnet-production in Italy and the achievements of writers like Petrarch, the meaning narrowed down to what we today regard as a sonnet. In 1575 A.D., the English poet George Gascoigne gave a first, but still rather blurry definition of what he conceived to be a sonnet: [...] Then have you Sonets: some thinke that all Poemes (being short) may be called Sonets [...] but I can beste allow to call those Sonets whiche are of fourtene lynes, every lyne conteyning tenne syllables. The first twelve do rhyme in staves of foure lines by cross meetre, and the last two ryming togither do conclude the whole.

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