Introduction to Verse Forms

The Middle Ages and Renaissance saw the evolution of a myriad of verse forms, including the sonnet, the sestina, the ballade, and the villanelle, to name but a few. Although formal verse has fallen out of favor in recent years, it was the vehicle for the genius of Petrarch, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and many others, and it represents an important part of our literary heritage.

The purpose of this Verse Forms site is to provide some very basic structural and historical information about a few of the medieval and Renaissance verse forms and to present examples (in English and from the period, where possible) of each form described.

This site does not provide a detailed look at the histories or characteristics of the various forms. It is, rather, a precis (or, for those already familiar with the forms, an aide-memoire). Nor is it comprehensive in scope; a number of verse forms used in the Middle Ages and Renaissance are not included here. For those who want more information about verse forms in general, or more detailed information about the forms described here, a list of resources is provided at the end of this site.

teaching woodcut


A Brief Guide to Some Medieval and Renaissance Verse Forms

Home | Terms/Concepts | Petrarchan Sonnet | Shakespearean Sonnet | Spenserian Sonnet | Rondeau | Chaucerian Roundel
Ballade: 8-line stanza | Ballade: 7-line stanza | Ballade: 10-line stanza | Sestina | Villanelle | Triolet | Strambotto | Rispetto | Links

The illustration used above is from the Medieval Woodcuts Clipart Collection, which can be found at

Verse Forms website Copyright © 2006 Jennifer M. Tom    ( Jennifer Monroe Franson )