Blank verse, sometimes confused with free verse, is a metrical form, being unrhymed iambic pentameter. It is flexible enough to lend itself to a number of uses, but has most commonly been employed in long narrative and epic poetry (when it is sometimes known as heroic verse), dramatic monologue and drama. At the time Hamlet was written, blank verse was only around 60 years old. It can be dated to circa 1540, when it was first developed by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who also with Thomas Wyatt was responsible for adapting an Italian form into the English (often called Shakespearean) sonnet. Howard, who was executed at the age of 30, translated two books of Virgils Aeneid into unrhymed iambic pentameter, creating a form that has proved itself the only English corollary of Latin heroic verse. The first blank verse play, Gorboduc, was written in 1561 by Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton. It is monotonously end stopped. It was Christopher Marlowe who wrote the first consistently successful blank verse dramas in the late 1580s and early 1590s, and his techniques were developed further by Shakespeare, who used increasingly more enjambment and feminine line endings, as well as variation within the line, to break up the meters regularity.
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