Heroic couplet definition and examples

What is Heroic Couplet?

Heroic Couplet means the lines of iambic pentameter which rhyme in pairs: aa, bb, cc and so on. The objective heroic was applied in the later 17th century because of the frequent use of such couplets in epic or heroic poems and in heroic dramas.

Who introduced the heroic couplet in English Literature?

This verse form was introduced into English poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer, and has been in constant use ever since.

From the age of John Dryden through that of Samuel Johnson, the heroic couplet was the pre-dominant English measure for all the poetic kinds some poets including Alexander Pope, used it almost to the exclusion of other metres.

Dryden used the heroic couplet with great force and he too retained much of the freedom and flexibility of the earlier masters. His purpose was to develop the “Colloquial Principle of Dryden and his followers,” and he used it as an instrument, fittest for discourse Dryden's handling of it has a characteristic sweep and he makes frequent use of triplets and Alexandrines. Pope, on the other hand, does not do so.

Pope's couplet are closed, that is to say, the sense does not run on from one couplet to another. The sense is complete, or nearly complete, with each couplet; every couplet thus tends to become a unit by itself, and can be taken out and enjoyed irrespective of its context.

Pope's use of the heroic couplet is characterised by brevity and preciseness. His couplets are well polished, refined and correct. They have a rare brilliance. They are epigrammatic and easily memorable. Pope is matchless for condensation and concentration.

Dryden's use of the heroic couplet gives his poem a variety of cadence which prevents monotony. He shows variety in his use of the heroic couplet which gives force and vitality to his poetry and avoids monotony. His handling of the couplet is admirable. He made it a. perfect medium for satiric purposes.

The closed neoclassic couplets contrast with the ‘open pentameter couplets of Keats’ Endymion. In the latter, the pattern of stresses varies often from the iambic norm, the syntax is unsymmetrical, and the couplets run on freely, with the rhyme serving to colour rather than to stop the verse.
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