The Jew of Malta
by Christopher Marlowe
Analysis: Writing Style
Blank Verse, Prose
Most of this play is written in blank verse, which is just a friendly way of saying unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Okay, let's break that down for you:
Iambic pentameter means you have five feet (that's the pent- part) per line. A foot is a rhythmic unit of poetry, and in this case we're working with iambs. An iamb is a foot that has one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, like da-DUM da-DUM.Some fun iambic words? "YourSELF,""deCLARE," and "unLESS."
You hear it? It should sound something like the human heartbeat; pretty cool.
So, put five iambs in a line, and you get something like this:
will KNIGHTS of MALta BE in LEAGUE with TURKS
and BUY it BASEly TOO for SUMS of GOLD?
Okay, so, like we said, mostly blank verse, but not always. Sometimes characters speak in prose, which just means normal talking or writing. (Like we're doing right now.)
It was conventional in Elizabethan drama to have the more noble characters speak in verse while the lowly commoners spoke in prose. For instance, Barabas's slave Ithamore speaks mostly in prose: "Faith, sir, my birth is but mean, my name's Ithamore, my profession what you please" (2.3.166-67).
Not a lot of poetry for evil minions.