Poetry and drama [204]


Discussion of the intersection between poetry and drama, including verse drama, poetry and songs in drama, and dramatic verse


There are three types of cases where poetry and drama intersect.

1. Verse drama. These are dramatic texts which use verse for ordinary purposes of communication; that is, the actors speak in verse as a matter of course. Verse dramas may also contain prose in varying proportions. The verse in a verse drama is typically in iambic pentameter, and may be either rhymed or unrhymed, or both (for instance, whole scenes unrhymed, with a rhymed couplet at a character’s exit).

The verse in verse drama is encoded as <lg type="drama.verse">, nested within <sp>. Within this <lg>, there is no subdivision except:

--if the speech is divided into verse paragraphs, tag these with <lg type="indeterminate">

--if the speech contains a braced tercet, tag this with <lg type="tercet" rend="braced()">.

2. Poetry in drama. Dramas (whether in verse or prose) may also include self-contained poems which are recited by the characters, and which are specifically positioned as “poetry” within the narrative. The distinction between this kind of poetry and the ordinary verse of a verse drama lies in whether a character in the play is aware of speaking poetry. When Caliban says to Trinculo “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises...” he is not deliberately speaking in verse; it’s just his normal idiom within the play, but if a character says “Sing us a song!” and someone sings, or if there’s a poetry recitation in the drawing room, then the poem or song is recognized as such within the action of the play. Prologues and epilogues should not be considered poetry in this sense, but as ordinary verse drama.

Poems and songs in verse drama are enclosed in an outermost “wrapper” <lg> with a type="poem.stanzaic" if the poem has a regular stanzaic structure, or “poem.indeterminate” if the poem has no stanzaic structure, or “poem.foo” (where foo is a named poetic form) if the poem has a named form such as “sonnet” or “villanelle”. Within the wrapper <lg>, internal whitespace dictates other <lg> elements. See the other entries on line groups, 186, 187, and 148 for more details.

3. Dramatic verse. This is poetry which is structured somewhat like a drama, with speakers and speeches, but which lacks the full infrastructure of a drama (stage directions, cast list, etc.) and was not written to be performed. The most typical case is a poem in dialogue form. In such cases, where we do not want to create a castlist (and hence cannot use <sp> since we have no way of declaring who= values), we encode the speakers’ names using <speaker>, but we omit the <sp> element. The <speaker> element should be nested within the <lg> as its first child. The omission of <sp> is based on the belief that <sp> indicates a component of the dramatic genre, rather than a general indication of spokenness, and hence is not appropriate or necessary within verse.

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