The word sonnet comes from the Italian word sonneto, meaning "little song" and respectively originated in Italy around the thirteenth century. "A sonnet is a fourteen-line lyric poem, traditionally written in iambic pentameter--that is, in lines ten syllables long, with accents falling on every second syllable, as in: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"" (Spark Notes, Shakespeare). It is one of the most formal poetic devices and usually has an intricate rhyming scheme. Sonnets typically state a problem, explore implications, and then resolve the dilemma. "In Elizabethan England--the era during which Shakespeare's sonnets were written--the sonnet was the form of choice for lyric poets, particularly lyric poets seeking to engage with traditional themes of love and romance" (Spark Notes, Shakespeare). Shakespeare and Donne were both highly respected sonnet writers of their time, and their works truly portrayed the ideal society of that time period. When comparing Shakespeare's sonnets to that of John Donne, one can truly see that both have a particular style, share similar themes, and reflect societies" ideals in each piece of poetic verse.
"John Donne used a peculiar rhyming scheme when writing most of his sonnets. It was a sharp opposition to that of most Elizabethan sonnets. Donne is valuable not simply as a representative writer but also as a highly unique one. He was a man of contradictions: As a minister in the Anglican Church, Donne possessed a deep spirituality that informed his writing throughout his life; but as a man, Donne possessed a carnal lust for life, sensation, and experience." (Spark Notes, John Donne). .
He had a very sharp, uncongenial style and used striking images to point out an unusual parallel between objects seemingly dissimilar. He often used paradoxes or rather an oxymoron to show the contradiction between situations or objects. In general, Italian sonnets are divided into two parts; an octave and a sestet, often taking the form abba abba cdcdcd.