blank verse

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pentameter (pĕntămˈətər) [Gr.,=measure of five], in prosody, a line to be scanned in five feet (see versification). The third line of Thomas Nashe's “Spring” is in pentameter: “Cold doth / not sting, / the pret / ty birds / do sing.” Iambic pentameter, in which each foot contains an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable, is the most common English meter. Chaucer first used it in what was later called rhyme royal, seven iambic pentameters rhyming ababbcc; as Chaucer pronounced a final short e, his pentameters often end in an 11th, unstressed syllable. In his Canterbury Tales the pentameters are disposed in rhyming pairs. The pentameter couplet was used also by his imitators in Scotland, with the important difference that when the final e disappeared from speech the couplet became one of strict pentameters. This, known as the heroic couplet, became important in the 17th and 18th cent., notably in the hands of Dryden and Pope.
True wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.
Pope, “Essay on Criticism”
Blank verse, a succession of unrhymed iambic pentameters, is primarily an English form and has been used in the loftiest epic and dramatic verse from Shakespeare and Milton to the present.
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Shakespeare, The Tempest, iv:1
The sonnet is one of the most familiar and successful uses of iambic pentameter in English poetry.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Blank Verse


(literally from the French vers blanc, which can be traced back to the English “blank verse”), unrhymed verse in syllabic and tonic syllabic versification.

Blank verse should not be confused with ancient metrical or Russian bylina (epic folk song) verse, for which rhyme was not at all characteristic. The similarity or alternation of fixed “closures” (the endings of the verse lines) plays the structural role of rhymes in blank verse. Because it lacks a rhyme system, blank verse is characterized by a lack of stanzas or weak stanzas and a great deal of freedom and verbal flexibility.

In Russia, blank verse was first used in syllabic versification by A. D. Kantemir and in tonic syllabic versification by M. V. Lomonosov. Blank verse was used by A. N. Radishchev (Bova and Ancient and Historical Songs; on blank verse, see his Journey . . . , the chapter “Tver’ ”) and V. A. Zhukovskii.

Blank verse (usually iambic pentameter) is associated primarily with dramatic genres (for example, Shakespeare’s plays; in Russian literature, A. S. Pushkin’s Boris Godunov and “Little Tragedies” and A. K. Tolstoy’s dramatic trilogy). Examples of blank verse in Russian poetry include Pushkin’s poem “I Visited Anew,” M. Iu. Lermontov’s “If That’s Your Voice I Hear,” and V. A. Lugovskii’s narrative poems “The Middle of the Century.”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

blank verse

Prosody unrhymed verse, esp in iambic pentameters
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
But it is perhaps in her longer blank-verse pieces, The Emigrants and, especially, the posthumous Beachy Head, that her most free and direct writing is to be found.
She then turned to the theater, with some success, most notably in the blank-verse tragedy Rienzi , which had 34 performances at London's Drury Lane in 1828.
In the spring of 1680 his fine blank-verse domestic tragedy The Orphan had great success on the stage.
American-born playwright and actor who followed the techniques and themes of the European Romantic blank-verse dramatists.
Merlin (1917) was the first of his long blank-verse narrative poems based on the King Arthur legends, followed by Lancelot (1920) and Tristram (1927).
Shadwell wrote 18 plays, including The Royal Shepherdess (1669; a pastoral), The Tempest (1674; an opera), Psyche (1674-75; a tragedy), and The Libertine (1675; a blank-verse tragedy).
Tintern Abbey (in full Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798) Blank-verse poem by Wordsworth, William that first appeared in Lyrical Ballads, a collaboration between Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge published in 1798.
Trissino's most significant cultural contribution was the Hellenization of Italian drama, achieved almost solely through his masterpiece, the blank-verse tragedy Sofonisba (written 1514-15; published 1524; first performed 1562), based on a story about the Carthaginian wars by the Roman historian Livy and employing the dramatic techniques of Sophocles and Euripides.
Ulysses Blank-verse poem by ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON, written in 1833 and published in the two-volume collection Poems (1842).