It is with Blank verse
that the distinction between poetry and prose
becomes blurred. It is only Free Verse
that can be said to stretch this distinction even further.
Boswell (the diarist) once asked Dr. Johnson the question: "What is poetry?" Johnson's answer is interesting.
"Why Sir, it is much easier to say what is not. We all know what light is, but is it not easy to say what it is not."
Blank Verse first became popular in the 16th Century. It was first used as an attempt to break away from the more formal sonnet forms that had controlled poetry for so long. It is decided (in contrast to the decorum of the previous century), that different modes of expression are suitable for different thoughts.
Blank Verse has a series of advantages and disadvantages.
-It can take on a wide variety of differing tones
-It has an almost conversational tone
-Blank Verse will always sound formal and elevated but it can pass as normal speech. During the early periods of its use, it is even used in the novel where it presents itself as prose.
-It can create a lack of interest therefore a wide variety of devices must be used to make it interesting. These devices are
*reinforcing and playing with the formal line ie..."To err is human to forgive devine."
*the introduction of the verse paragraph
*the shifting of stress away from syllables.
*variations of tonal quality and diction.