I Hate Plays in Rhyme

Joseph Addison, The Spectator April 14th, 1711:

“Aristotle observes, that the Iambick Verse in the Greek Tongue was the most proper for Tragedy: Because at the same time that it lifted up the Discourse from Prose, it was that which approached nearer to it than any other kind of Verse. For, says he, we may observe that Men in Ordinary Discourse very often speak Iambicks, without taking notice of it. We may make the same Observation of our English Blank Verse, which often enters into our Common Discourse, though we do not attend to it, and is such a due Medium between Rhyme and Prose, that it seems wonderfully adapted to Tragedy. I am therefore very much offended when I see a Play in Rhyme, which is as absurd in English, as a Tragedy of Hexameters would have been in Greek or Latin. The Solæcism is, I think, still greater, in those Plays that have some Scenes in Rhyme and some in Blank Verse, which are to be looked upon as two several Languages; or where we see some particular Similies dignifyed with Rhyme, at the same time that everything about them lyes in Blank Verse. I would not however debar the Poet from concluding his Tragedy, or, if he pleases, every Act of it, with two or three Couplets, which may have the same Effect as an Air in the Italian Opera after a long Recitativo, and give the Actor a graceful Exit. Besides that we see a Diversity of Numbers in some Parts of the Old Tragedy, in order to hinder the Ear from being tired with the same continued Modulation of Voice. For the same Reason I do not dislike the Speeches in our English Tragedy that close with an Hemistick, or half Verse, notwithstanding the Person who speaks after it begins a new Verse, without filling up the preceding one; Nor with abrupt Pauses and Breakings-off in the middle of a Verse, when they humour any Passion that is expressed by it.”

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