Dramatic Metre

Matteo A. Pangallo

in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566105
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Dramatic Metre

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As he experimented, borrowed, and revised, Shakespeare continuously revisited the sound of his characters' speeches, flexing their metred language as far as possible in pursuit of the most honest rhythms achievable. Taking the iambic pentameter line as his starting point, Shakespeare found that adding or omitting syllables, inverting or reordering stresses, splitting lines between characters, and alternating between verse and prose could achieve specific dramaturgical effects. Despite the marked morphologic and phonemic change English has undergone, many of Shakespeare's metrical devices still function as they were designed to 400 years ago. This article examines the blank verse on the early modern stage; short lines and long lines based on pentameter length; end-stopping and enjambment; syllabic density; varying the iambic phase; verse and prose; and certain trends in Shakespeare's verse over his career.

Keywords: blank verse; iambic pentameter; Shakespeare's verse; syllabic density; end-stopping; enjambment

Article.  10832 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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