Poetry vs. Prose in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Poetry vs. Prose in Shakespeare's Hamlet

In any discussion of poetry vs. prose worth it's stanzas, questions regarding such tools as meter, rhyme, and format must come into play. These are, after all, the most obvious distinguishing features of poetry, and they must certainly be key in determining the definition, and in fact nature, of poetry.

Yet a term as broad as "poetry" is not so easily quantified as to simply attribute physical characteristics to it and let all writing either fall into or out of that category. Poetry is determined by the effect upon the reader. It is an individual opinion, and thus defined by the collected (individual) reactions.


There is a willow grows askaunt the brook,

That shows his hoary leaves on the glassy stream,

Therewith fantastic garlands did she make

Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples

That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,

But our cull-cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.

There on the pendant boughs her crownet weeds

Clamb'ring to hand, an envious sliver broke,

When down her weedy trophies and herself

Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,

And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,

Which time she chaunted snatches of old lauds,

As one incapable of her own distress,

Or like a creature native and indued

Unto that element. But long it could not be

Till that her garments heavy with their drink,

Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay

To muddy death.

-Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act IV Scene VII

Take, for example, the above text from Hamlet. One of the more stirring monologues of the play, it describes the death of Ophelia in specific, touching terms. Think of the audience re...

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...cess. One can only hope that it is better than, "You know, to muddy death."

Poetry is the feeling that comes when a person sees something that strikes a chord in their chest which reverberates in the rhythm struck. How often have you heard something other than line poetry described passionately as "poetic"? It is a common word because it is descriptive of that wonder we have when we read truly good verse. It is a common word because after we feel it once (in that poetry), we know it again in other forms.

Not all of those forms rhyme. The poetry is not the line placement, it is what the line placement helps express. It is simply a more effective (and more technically difficult) thing to accomplish when placed in meter. Poetry is that song that finds its way from within when we see it in some form before us, regardless of line or verse.

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