ottava rima Italian, stanza of eight lines, literally, eighth stanza
plural ottava rimas Italian stanza form composed of eight 11-syllable lines, rhyming abababcc. It originated in the late 13th and early 14th centuries and was developed by Tuscan poets for religious verse and drama and in troubadour songs. In his romantic epics Il filostrato (written c. 1338) and Teseida (written 1340-41), Giovanni Boccaccio established ottava rima as the standard form for epic and narrative verse in Italian. The form acquired new flexibility and variety in Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso (c. 1507-32) and Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (1581).
Ottava rima appeared in Spain and Portugal in the 16th century. It was used in 1600 in England (where the lines were shortened to 10 syllables) by Edward Fairfax in his translation of the work of Tasso. In original English verse ottava rima was written in iambic pentameter and used for heroic poetry in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it achieved its greatest effectiveness in Lord Byron's Beppo (1818) and Don Juan (1819-24). Others who have written poems in the form include Edmund Spenser, John Milton, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Browning, and William Butler Yeats.