Traditionally, the sonnet is thought of as a poem of 14 lines which exists in two main variant forms: the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet. These two main forms take their names from Francesco Petrarca and William Shakespeare, but the sonnet evolved gradually. It is thought to have originated in Provence although the location is disputed. Originally, the Italian word sonetto meant a little song or short refrain and was recited to musical accompaniment, and it became fashionable in English poetry after it was imported from Italy around the start of the 1500s. In the sixteenth century, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, brought the sonnet form to England mainly through translations of Continental poets. Howard modified the form and began a process of evolution. He used a variant that became the Shakespearean sonnet. Later, Sir Philip Sidney used Petrarch as a model, but with some variation, when he composed his sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. These various early acts of translation, modification and modelling offered flexibility and hybrid vigour, and resulted in a strong tradition of sonnets in English.
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