blank verse


blank verse
unrhymed verse, esp. the unrhymed iambic pentameter most frequently used in English dramatic, epic, and reflective verse.
[1580-90]

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Unrhymed verse, specifically unrhymed iambic pentameter, the preeminent dramatic and narrative verse form in English.

It is also the standard form for dramatic verse in Italian and German. Adapted from Greek and Latin sources, it was introduced in Italy, then in England, where in the 16th century William Shakespeare transformed blank verse into a vehicle for the greatest English dramatic poetry, and its potential for grandeur was confirmed with John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667).

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▪ poetic form
      unrhymed iambic pentameter, the preeminent dramatic and narrative verse form in English and also the standard form for dramatic verse in Italian and German. Its richness and versatility depend on the skill of the poet in varying the stresses and the position of the caesura (pause) in each line, in catching the shifting tonal qualities and emotional overtones of the language, and in arranging lines into thought groups and paragraphs.

      Adapted from unrhymed Greek and Latin heroic verse, blank verse was introduced in 16th-century Italy along with other classical metres. The Italian (Italian literature) humanist Francesco Maria Molza attempted the writing of consecutive unrhymed verse in 1514 in his translation of Virgil's Aeneid. Other experiments in 16th-century Italy were the tragedy Sofonisba (written 1514–15) by Gian Giorgio Trissino, and the didactic poem Le api (1539) by Giovanni Rucellai. Rucellai was the first to use the term versi sciolti, which became translated into English as “blank verse.” It soon became the standard metre of Italian Renaissance drama, used in such major works as the comedies of Ludovico Ariosto, L'Aminta of Torquato Tasso, and the Il pastor fido of Battista Guarini.

      Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (Surrey, Henry Howard, Earl of), introduced the metre, along with the sonnet and other Italian humanist verse forms, to England in the early 16th century. Thomas Sackville (Sackville, Thomas, 1st earl of Dorset) and Thomas Norton used blank verse for the first English tragic drama, Gorboduc (first performed 1561), and Christopher Marlowe (Marlowe, Christopher) developed its musical qualities and emotional power in Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus, and Edward II. William Shakespeare (Shakespeare, William) transformed the line and the instrument of blank verse into the vehicle for the greatest English dramatic poetry. In his early plays, he combined it with prose and a 10-syllable rhymed couplet; he later employed a blank verse dependent on stress rather than on syllabic length. Shakespeare's poetic expression in his later plays, such as Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Macbeth, and The Winter's Tale, is supple, approximating the rhythms of speech, yet capable of conveying the subtlest human delight, grief, or perplexity.

      After a period of debasement, blank verse was restored to its former grandeur by John Milton (Milton, John) in Paradise Lost (1667). Milton's verse is intellectually complex, yet flexible, using inversions, Latinized words, and all manner of stress, line length, variation of pause, and paragraphing to gain descriptive and dramatic effect. In the 18th century, James Thomson used blank verse in his long descriptive poem The Seasons, and Edward Young's Night Thoughts uses it with power and passion. Later, William Wordsworth wrote his autobiography of the poetic spirit, The Prelude (completed 1805–06; published 1850), in blank verse; Percy Bysshe Shelley used it in his drama The Cenci (1819), as did John Keats in Hyperion (1820). The extreme flexibility of blank verse can be seen in its range from the high tragedy of Shakespeare to the low-keyed, conversational tone of Robert Frost (Frost, Robert) in A Masque of Reason (1945).

      Blank verse was established in German (German literature) drama by Gotthold Lessing's Nathan der Weise (1779). Examples of its use are found in the writings of Goethe, Schiller, and Gerhart Hauptmann. It was also used extensively in Swedish, Russian, and Polish dramatic verse.

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:
(especially the heroic verse of five iambic feet)


Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Blank verse — Verse Verse, n. [OE. vers, AS. fers, L. versus a line in writing, and, in poetry, a verse, from vertere, versum, to turn, to turn round; akin to E. worth to become: cf. F. vers. See {Worth} to become, and cf. {Advertise}, {Averse}, {Controversy} …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • blank verse — n. unrhymed verse; esp., unrhymed verse having five iambic feet per line, as in Elizabethan drama: cf. FREE VERSE …   English World dictionary

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  • blank verse — blank′ verse′ n. pro unrhymed verse • Etymology: 1580–90 …   From formal English to slang

  • blank verse — ► NOUN ▪ verse without rhyme …   English terms dictionary

  • blank verse — noun uncount a type of poetry that has a regular pattern of sounds but does not have lines that RHYME …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • blank verse — 1580s; the thing itself is attested in English poetry from mid 16c. and is classical in origin …   Etymology dictionary

  • blank verse — (izg. blȅnk vérs) m DEFINICIJA jez. knjiž. nevezan, slobodni stih, bez rime, osobito jampski pentametar u engleskoj drami i epu ETIMOLOGIJA engl …   Hrvatski jezični portal


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