What is Heroic Couplet?

Heroic couplet is a pair of rhymed lines with iambic pentameter. This form of poetry was popularized and highly developed by the neo-classical poets, especially Alexander Pope. Chaucer was the first literary figure to compose verse using heroic couplets, but the use of Heroic couplets did not become widespread until the seventeenth century.

Heroic couplets are also characterized by classical diction and seriousness of the classical poetry along with the expression of a complete thought. The heroic couplet became the major English appraise for all the poetic kinds; from the age of Dryden through that of Dr. Johnson. Some poets, including Alexander Pope, used it almost to the exclusion of other meters.

In the Neo-classical age, it became the dominant measure and was used for drama, satire, descriptive and narrative verse. Dryden used the heroic couplet in his verse. He gave it an additional vigor, a sinewy elegance and a noble rhythm and beauty. It was left until Pope to perfect the heroic couplet. He used it in all his significant poems such as The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, Essay on Man and Essay on Criticism. He was the most consummate master of the closed couplet and confined the sense more vigorously than ever within the two lines.  He used the heroic couplet with great metrical skill, variation of speed, delicacy of touch and made his couplets quite memorable.

Heroic couplet was used with rare brilliance and effect for satirical and intellectual poetry. In the hands of Pope, it acquired a perfection and ‘correctness’ which left Dryden far behind, and which could not be approached by any of his contemporaries and successors. But excessive refinements lead to monotony and rigidity in the hands of the followers of Pope.

Published on 23 Jan. 2014 by Kedar Nath Sharma

Related Topics

Alexander Pope: Biography

John Dryden: Biography

Geoffrey Chaucer: Biography

The Rape of the Lock: Analysis