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WHAT IS “PROSE”…

AND WHAT IS “VERSE?”


Prose lacks the more formal structure of a poem, in the guise of either
a meter or rhyme, but instead comprises full sentences, which then
constitute paragraphs. Prose is the most typical form of language.
Several examples of prose and verse can be found in the works of
William Shakespeare, and those below are two famous extracts from
Hamlet. The format of the first piece can be misleading, but a closer
inspection reveals that the speech is actually a complete paragraph
and lacks any consistent syllabic structure or rhyming. If read aloud,
Hamlet's speech, "What a piece of work is man," would resemble a
typical piece of written or spoken English.

Prose
I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king
and queen moult no feather. I have of late--but
wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling
you seem to say so.
—The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Act II, Scene ii, 285-
300).

A verse is formally a single line in a metrical composition, like poetry.


However, the word has come to represent any division or grouping of
words in such a composition, which traditionally had been referred to
as a stanza.

The word "verse" is commonly used in lieu of the word "poetry" to


distinguish it from prose. Where the common unit of poetry, i.e., verse,
is based on meter or rhyme, the common unit of prose is purely
grammatical, such as a sentence or paragraph.

• Rhymed verse is the most commonly used form of verse and


generally has a discernable meter and an end rhyme.
• Blank verse is generally identified by a regular meter, but no end
rhyme.
• Free verse is usually defined as having no fixed meter and no end
rhyme. Although free verse may include end rhyme, it commonly
does not.

Verse
To be, or not to be,–that is the question:–
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?–To die,–to sleep,–
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,–’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die,–to sleep;–
To sleep! perchance to dream:–ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil…
—The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Act III, Scene i, 56-67).