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date: 28 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The very familiarity of rhyming couplets, owing to their domination of English verse from the late sixteenth to the late eighteenth century, can make it difficult to engage with them. For two-fifths of the history of modern English verse, the couplet was the default mode. Though couplets have had detractors all along, this chapter makes the case for the attractions of the style, both simple and forbidding, and accounts for how they have been mistreated in critical histories. Despite their apparent uniformity, in capable hands couplets demonstrate considerable variety. Though they demand much from their readers—their surface-level simplicity conceals much complexity—they repay the effort required to read them proficiently.

Keywords: poetry, form, rhyme, couplets, heroic couplets

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