A Conversation for Blank Verse and Iambic Pentameter


Post 1

Researcher 198511

"Contrary to popular belief, it is not a preponderance of 'thou's and 'thy's,'verily's and 'forsooth's which make the language of William Shakespeare and his Renaissance brethren extraordinary.... It is not even the vast number of 'quotable quotes' which have suceeded in becoming part of Everyman's everyday vocabulary.... What really sets apart the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is the... discovery and development of the form of writing known as Blank Verse."

That's quite a statement, DD, and it's hard for me to agree. There is plenty of English Renaissance literature in rhymed verse (the lyrical Marlowe and Shakespeare, even Spenser) which is just as characteristically Renaissance and just as amazing. There's also been plenty of blank verse written since then which is neither Renaissance nor extraordinary. I can't quite get hold of the details, but I suspect that what most characterizes Renaissance English is something which adds color to the discourse, something related to the content at least as much as to the form. I wish I knew more.


Post 2


You are right - it is a sweeping statement & in my defence that entry is very much a WIP...

What I should perhaps have said is that discovering & developing blank verse (in English) is ONE of the most important aspects of Marlowe & Shakespeare's writing, because for the first time they were employing a poetic structure that mirrored the natural flow of this language. Other rhyme schemes/verse structures did not lend themselves so easily to vernacular English as they often had been designed for Latin & Greek. Even today we speak quite naturally in iambic pentameter (mostly without even realising it).

I completely agree that the content - the imagery, themes, even the vocabulary - of Renaissance writing is also a defining and glorious characteristic; I was probably being over-simplistic because I wanted to focus in on the structure of their language in this entry.

I think it is important to recognise that these writers were being truly innovative and revolutionary in their use of style & structure. They were taking the language of the people (previously used only for ordinary, everyday transactions) and creating poetry with it - tightly structured and organised 'high language'. This had never been done before, and you can see it as a direct challenge on the authority of the Church and State.

Or at least, that's the way I see it!

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