Further reading

Estrin, Barbara L. Laura: Uncovering Gender and Genre in Wyatt, Donne, and Marvell. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994.

BLANK VERSE Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, a base line of five poetic feet where each foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Because of the prevailing movement from unstressed to stressed, the rhythm is classified as ascending. occasionally, iambs with other poetic feet are substituted, without exceeding the 10 total syllables per line, to complement the content of the line. Blank verse was most commonly used for writing English epics and dramatic works during the latter half of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, but it also was important within the sonnet tradition.

Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, developed English blank verse in his translation of books 2 and 4 of Virgil's Aeneid, first published in Tottel's Miscellany (1557). He adapted blank verse from the Italians' unrhymed endecasillabo, a poetic line consisting of 11 syllables (versi sciolti, or "verse freed from rhyme"). Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville are credited with being the first to adopt Surrey's blank verse for the stage in Gorboduc (1561), though it was Christopher Marlowe who popularized it. Playwrights favored blank verse because it closely follows conversational speaking patterns in English.

Lauri S. Dietz

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