What is blank verse? Where is it used in Romeo and Juliet?
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Romeo and Juliet is probably Shakespeare's most poetic drama because the entire play is written in blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter. While poetic, the play's lines are more like English speech since iambic pentameter is the regular cadence of English, making the sound of the lines more appealing to audiences. In addition to the regular cadence, there are two sonnets in the play, also in rhymed iambic pentameter. The first sonnet occurs in the opening Prologue that precedes Act I, Here is the first quatrain:
Two households, both alike in dignity
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean
The other sonnet occurs with the first close encounter of Romeo and Juliet in Scene 5 of the first act. Each says seven lines employing the metaphor of their being like pilgrims. Along with the lilting verse, Shakespeare adds light/dark imagery, fanciful metaphors, alliteration, puns, and other literary devices to produce a powerful romantic tragedy.
Blank verse usually refers to unrhymed iambic pentameter. This is verse that is made up of lines that are ten syllables (or five "feet") long, with the syllables alternating between unaccented and accented. A famous example is Romeo's speech from Act II, Scene 2:
But, soft, what light through yon-der win-dow breaks?
It is the east, and Jul-iet is the sun.
A-rise, fair sun, and kill the en-vious moon,
Who is al-read-y sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Blank verse is defined as unrhymed iambic pentameter. It should not be confused with "free verse" which means verse with no regular metrical pattern. As notes above, most of Romeo and Juliet is written in blank verse.
English verse fuses two different metrical traditions, a primarily syllabic French tradition and an accentual Anglo-Saxon one. In syllabic verse, one simply counts the syllables in a line and follows a regular pattern of line lengths. Accentual verse, on the other hand, is concerned with the number of stressed syllables in a line, and allows the poet to vary the number of unstressed syllables. English verse combines these two traditions to form "accentual-syllabic" verse in which one pays attention both to the number of syllables in a line and the relative positions of stressed and unstressed syllables.
The smallest unit of patterning in a poetic line is known as a foot. A iamb is a foot consisting of an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. Critics describe lines in terms of the type of foot that predominates and the number of times the foot is repeated in a line. Since blank verse lines consist of five iambic feet, the lines are called "iambic pentameter." You should note, though that this doesn't mean that every single foot is an iamb, just that the majority of feet are iambic.
An example of blank verse (with stressed syllables marked in boldface) in Romeo and Juliet is:
I drew to part them: in the instant came
The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepared,
Which, as he breathed defiance to my ears,
He swung about his head and cut the winds,
Blank verse is iambic pentameter without the rhyme. The link below will give you an excellent explanation here at eNotes.
An example I found is the Prince's lines in Act 1, scene 1, where he says,
Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel--
Will they not hear? What ho, you men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins:
The iambic pentameter is still there, but the regular rhyme scheme of iambic pentameter is missing.
Check the link below for more information about blank verse!
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