Comment on the prosodic features of the poem with the phrase "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships/  And burnt the topless tower of ilium?"

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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This line is from the literary work Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. These are the opening words of this poem, which is revered as an example of great English poetry.

The main prosodic feature of this English language poem is the formal style in which it was written. Marlowe wrote this in "Blank Verse", which is unrhymed iambic pentameter. The poem from Doctor Faustus is 20 lines long and it is contained within one stanza, looking at it as a separate section of the overall work.

The regular meter of the poem gives the piece a structure and momentum that propels the story forward. The meter lends a regal air to the poem, appropriate for the narrator's feelings towards Helen.

The use of alliteration is also a prosodic feature of the poem. Marlowe also varies from the strict meter of Blank Verse (the use of 10 syllables per line), by varying the number of syllables in some lines. This breaks up the monotony, which can result from strict unstressed/stressed, 10 syllable iambic pentameter.

Another prosodic feature of the poem is assonance - which is the repeating of identical or similar vowel sounds in neighboring words. Marlowe also employs consonance - which is recurring similar sounds, particularly consonants that are in close proximity. 

Additional Resource: Blank Verse -A Guide to Its History and Use (Hardcover Textbook, Robert B. Shaw, Ohio University Press, Copyright 2007)


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