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Old 09-05-2008, 02:26 PM
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Default 9&60 Ways - Blank Verse


(I'm putting this one up early to build a cache here that people can refer to. There will be three mini-lessons for September, and one a month after that.)

Blank verse is written in iambic pentameter. An "iamb" is a set of two syllables, the first one soft (unstressed), and the second one loud (stressed). The word "attack" is an example. "Pentameter" means there are five in a row. Let's say a period means a soft syllable and a backslash means a loud one. Iambic pentameter looks like this:

. / . / . / . / . /

Sometimes an extra soft syllable is allowed:

. / . / . / . / . / .

In blank verse, the lines of iambic pentameter do not rhyme.

First used in the first half of the 1500's, blank verse took off in the 1600's under the deft hands of Marlowe and Shakespeare. Marlow's play "Tamburlaine the Great" has this speech:

Unhappy Persia,-- that in former age
Hast been the seat of mighty conquerors,
That, in their prowess and their policies,
Have triumph'd over Afric, and the bounds
Of Europe where the sun dares scarce appear...

And here is Petruchio insulting his servants in "The Taming of the Shrew" (Shakespeare):

You logger-headed and unpolish'd grooms!
What, no attendance? no regard? no duty?

Robert Frost chose blank verse to dignify "The Death of the Hired Man" (1915):

But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If hed had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
Hed keep so still about him all this time?

So give it a try! If you occasionally start with a stressed syllable, or add an extra unstressed one, that's all right. Little variations keep it from sounding like a metronome.

Questions and comments go in this thread. Your work can be posted as a separate thread with "Blank Verse" in the title.

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