Guide to Literary Terms

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Blank Verse

Blank verse (also called unrhymed iambic pentameter) - unrhymed lines of ten syllables each with the even-numbered syllables bearing the accents. Blank verse is considered best for dramatic verse in English since it is the verse form closest to the rhythms of everyday English speech and has been the dominant verse form of English drama and narrative poetry since the mid-Sixteenth Century. Such verse is blank in rhyme only, having a definite meter, although variations in meter are sometimes used. As Milton explained in his 1667 preface to Paradise Lost:

The Measure is English Heroic Verse without Rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and of Virgil in Latin; Rime being no necessary Adjunct or true Ornament of Poem or good Verse, in larger Works especially, but the Invention of a barbarous Age, to set off wretched matter and lame Meeter.

The term is originally from the French blanc, meaning “white”— in the sense of “left white” or “requiring something to be filled in.”

The term was first used by the Earl of...

(The entire section is 344 words.)