Ottava rima


Ottava rima is an Italian stanza form consisting of eight lines which are all eleven syllables long, with an ab ab ab cc rhyme-scheme. When the stanza form is used in English, it uses eight iambic lines, predominately in pentameter form.


Ottava rima originated from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries and was initially developed by Italian Tuscan poets for religious verse and drama. It was introduced into English literature by Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was also known for his introduction of the sonnet form into English poetry. It was famously employed by Lord Byron who used the form for his poem Don Juan, having initially used it in Beppo: A Venetian story in 1817.


  • Don Juan (1819) by Lord Byron (1788-1824)
I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I’ll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan-
We have all seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the Devil somewhat ere his time.     
The rhyme-scheme of ottava rima can be complex to use as a format, however since Byron frequently wrote in couplets he became accustomed to its use. The form influenced elements such as the structure, rhythm and tone. Byron used the rhyme-scheme to satiric effect, giving emphasis to the images portrayed and making the dark subject matter accessible. 
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