Blank verse is a type of poem that consists of a regular meter but does not contain a specific rhyme scheme. It means the lines of a black verse poem are metrical but they don’t rhyme together.
Let’s quickly have a look at the important features of blank verse:
Marlowe was the first English author who popularized the form. Let’s have a look at how Marlowe utilizes this form in the first few lines of his tragedy Doctor Faustus:
Not march/-ing in/ the fields/ of Thra-/sy-mene,
Where Mars/ did mate/ the war/-like Car/-tha-gens;
Nor spor/-ting in/ the dal/-li-ance/ of love,
In courts/ of kings/ where state/ is o/-ver-turn’d;
Nor in/ the pomp/ of proud/ au-da-/cious deeds,
In-tends/ our Muse/ to vaunt/ her hea/-v(e)nly verse:
On-ly/ this, gen/-tles,—we/ must now/ per-form
The form/ of Faus/-tus’ for/-tunes, good/ or bad:
And now/ to pa/-tient judg/-ments we/ ap-peal,
And speak/ for Faus/-tus in/ his in/-fan-cy.
The excerpt is in regular iambic pentameter with unrhymed lines. Here, Marlowe uses the following variations: the first foot of the fifth line is trochaic and elision is used in the last foot of the sixth line.
Shakespeare achieved prominence by using this form in most of his plays. For example, let’s have a look at a few lines of Hamlet and how Shakespeare uses the form.
To be,/ or not/ to be,/ that is/ the question:
Whe-ther/ ’tis nob/-ler in/ the mind/ to suff(e)r
The slings/ and ar/-rows of/ out-ra/-geous fort(u)ne,
Or to/ take arms/ a-gainst/ a sea/ of troubl(e)s
And by/ op-posing/ end them./ To die/—to sleep,
No more;/ and by/ a sleep/ to say/ we end
The heart-/ache and/ the thou-/sand natu-/ral shocks
That flesh/ is heir/ to: ’tis/ a con-/sum-mation
De-vout-/ly to/ be wish’d./ To die,/ to sleep;
This excerpt from Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” speech is in regular iambic pentameter. Shakespeare uses a few elisions to metrically structure the lines.