Anne Bradstreet Questions and Answers

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What is the connection between the form and the content in "The Prologue" by Anne Bradstreet?

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Anne Bradstreet, one of the primary poets of the Puritan era, is being rather ironic in this poem. Notice that Bradstreet's content rejects the idea that men are "superior" to women (indeed, there is much irony in stanza seven as she defers to men!) and that men possess superior talents in writing to those of women. She seemingly plays down her own talents, expressing that she surely cannot write better than the Greeks with her "mean" pen (read "mere" in today's meaning). But then in stanza five, Bradstreet outwardly rebels against the traditional female role—a move that was rather brave for her day.

In terms of poetic form, Bradstreet further rebels against the idea that her verse is inferior by composing finely-crafted lines, each of which contains ten syllables. The predominant meter throughout is iambic pentameter. This is one of the most common meters in poetry, consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable so that each line has five stressed syllables. See the example below, wherein the words or letters in all caps receive the stress when the poem is spoken:

To SING of WARS, of CAP-tains AND of KINGS


and so on. There might be a bit of variation in some lines, but the dominant pattern is iambic pentameter. Note also that the last two lines in each stanza consist of a rhyming couplet.

Thus, Bradstreet echoes her content arguing for the talents of women by composing a tightly crafted poem that proves her case.

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