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A poem in the form of a debate between two characters, who are usually personifications of opposed principles or qualities: body and soul, water and wine, winter and summer, etc. The débat was much practised in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, both in Latin and in the vernacular languages. The outstanding English example is the early 13th-century poem The Owl and the Nightingale, in which the two birds—probably representing religious and secular poetry respectively—dispute over the benefits they bring to mankind. In French, François Villon later wrote a débat between the heart and the body. The débat commonly ends with an inconclusive reference of the issue to a judge. The form has some classical precedents in the agon of Aristophanes' comedies and the eclogues of Theocritus; and it may in turn have influenced the structures of later medieval drama. See also amoebean verses, dialogue.

Subjects: Literature.

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