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Shakespeare's Metrical Art Paperback – November 18, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 363 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (November 18, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520076427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520076426
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Wright's book is rare in its field in being extremely well-written and fascinating. . . . It is the best book about metre I have ever read, and one of the most helpful books about Shakespeare for some years."--Peter Levi, "Notes & Queries

About the Author

George T. Wright is Regents' Professor of English at the University of Minnesota and author of The Poet in the Poem and W. H. Auden.

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Customer Reviews

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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is more than a history of iambic pentameter and a brilliant analysis of its use in the hands of its greatest practitioner, it should probably also be read as the best general introduction to prosody available. Truly general introductions may touch on more forms and offer a more complete view of English poetic history, but none out there (that I've seen, at least) are as perceptive as Wright and none of them, perhaps because of their general natures, elucidate so fully the possibilities of expressive variation and mimetic form in poetry the way Wright does in such minute detail. Chapters like "Lines with extra syllables," or "Lines with omitted syllables," or "Play of phrase and line" may at first glance promise only dry reading, and it's probably hard to believe that a 300-page book on iambic pentameter could be one of the best works of literary criticism you could ever read. But this is an analysis of at least half of what poetry is all about and, more importantly, the half most rarely talked about (most college professors don't even know how to). Digest this rich and beautifully written book with a handful of Shakespeare's plays (you won't be able to stay away from them after reading it anyway) and you'll be ready to tackle and analyze most any other poet with relative confidence for yourself.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 1996
Format: Hardcover
George T. Wright's "Shakespeare's Metrical Art" is an
introduction not only to the art of Iambic Pentameter as
Shakespeare practiced it but also a starting point to an
understanding the art of Iambic Pentameter itself. Mr. Wright
argues that in Shakespeare the Iambic Pentameter meter found
its greatest and most flexible practitioner. In
appreciating the beauty of Shakespeare's artistry we also
come to appreciate the intrinsic artistry and beaty of the
meter. Mr. Wright's journey begins with Chaucer and Wyatt,
the former being the earliest practitioner of the Iambic
Pentameter line and also the greatest until Shakespeare. His
reading of Chaucer's lines, as most often Iambic Pentameter,
sometimes runs counter to accepted wisdom, yet, as with his
conception of the meter itself, his argument is well-reasoned
and convincing. More contraversial is his treatment of Wyatt's
often inconsistent use of meter. Yet, here again, Wright
offers the reader a plausible framework into which Wyatt's
poetry becomes another expression of the meter's vitality and
flexibility. From the further disintegration of the meter
after Wyatt, Wright begins his treatment of Shakespeare's
metrical art. Every facet of Shakespeare's flexible and
imaginative use of the meter (his diversions from its strict
course) is methodically examined and considered for its
possible influence upon the meaning of the text. These
diversions include Shakespeare's use of long and short lines,
syllabic ambiguity, lines with extra syllables, lines with
omitted syllables, trochees, false trochees and other such
variations as are possible within the iambic pentameter meter.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kent Richmond on January 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you are interested in prosody and want a brief introduction, I still recommend (now that it is back in print) Shapiro and Beum's The Prosody Handbook: A Guide to Poetic Form (Dover Books on Literature & Drama). It tells you just what you need to know, and you can comprehend it without a teacher's help. But if you want a greater understanding of the English language's most famous verse form, iambic pentameter, then I recommend George T.Wright's Shakespeare's Metrical Art.

Wright begins with a general description and history of iambic pentameter. We learn why it became such an important tool for English poets and see it at work in the hands of its various practitioners from Chaucer on. But the bulk of the book focuses on Shakespeare's use of the form. Using generous examples from the plays and statistical evidence, Wright shows how Shakespeare manipulated the iambic pentameter line to achieve dramatic effects and how Shakespeare's metrical choices changed over the span of his career.

Be prepared for quite a list of terms to describe Shakespeare's alterations and deviations--broken-backed lines, epic caesurae, double trimeters, amphibrach, enjambment, and so forth. If you do not have much background in the language of poetic rhythm, consider brushing up first on the basic terms (iambs, trochees, dactyls, anapests, spondees). Fortunately, Wright seems conscious of these difficulties and graciously uses self-explanatory terms--short lines, shared lines, long lines, extra syllables, omitted syllables--when he categorizes metrical deviations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Teop Tnomrev on January 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
I remember perfunctory discussions of Iambic Pentameter in High School. None of the artistry or intent was explained and afterward I would struggle to write blank verse. An entire generation (the baby-boomers) has grown up in the free-verse movement their elders established -- and sometimes dogmatically so.

I realize now that they themselves didn't understand the verse form they were ostensibly teaching.

The result has been decades of poets who have little understanding of verse forms and who have, at times, been flatly hostile toward anything other than free verse. In my late twenties, however, I discovered "Shakespeare's Metrical Art" by George Wright; and because of this book, I taught myself how to write iambic pentameter. The subtlety, the beauty and artistry of blank verse made sense.

Wright's book is both a book about Shakespeare and a thorough textbook on the art of blank verse. If you want to understand this 'lost' art form, start here. I wish there were some way I could personally thank Wright (and I have tried from time to time to contact him without success).

So, Mr. Wright, if you ever read these reviews - I thank you... I am in your debt.

Patrick Gillespie
Author of "Opening Book"
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