- rhyme royal
- Rhyme royal, or the “Chaucerian stanza,” is a verse form invented by Geoffrey CHAUCER consisting of seven decasyllabic (10-syllable) lines rhyming ababbcc. Chaucer found the stanza valuable and flexible for use in narrative poetry.He first used it in The PARLIAMENT OF FOWLS, and used it again in TROILUS AND CRISEYDE and some of the CANTERBURY TALES, particularly the more serious ones like The CLERK’S TALE and The PRIORESS’S TALE. Other late medieval poets, including LYDGATE, DUNBAR, and HENNRYSON, later used the stanza and it was given the name “rhyme royal” because it was used in The KINGIS QUAIR, a poem attributed to King JAMES I of Scotland. The stanza also remained popular in the Renaissance, and was employed by Skelton, and Spenser, and by Shakespeare as well in his narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece. Chaucer adapted the rhyme royal form from BOCCACCIO’s OTTAVA RIMA stanza—an eight-line stanza rhyming abababcc. Boccaccio’s stanza consists of six lines of description or narration and a concluding couplet that might comment on or sum up the stanza. Chaucer eliminated Boccaccio’s fifth line, creating a stanza form that invited more flexibility by creating a turning point in the fourth line, the middle of the stanza: The b rhyme in line four completes the abab quatrain that starts the stanza, and also begins the bbcc pair of couplets that ends the stanza. The following famous stanza from Troilus illustrates the rhyme royal form:Ye knowe ek that in forme of speche is chaungeWithinne a thousand yeer, and wordes thoThat hadden pris, now wonder nyce and straungeUs thinketh hem, and yet thei spake hem so,And spedde as wel in love as men now do;Ek for to wynnen love in sundry ages,In sundry londes, sundry ben usages.(Benson 1987, 489, ll. 22–28)Here, the first four lines describe how strange to us is the speech of those that lived in bygone times. But a shift occurs in line four, and the final four lines describe how much those people were like us after all, particularly in matters of love.Bibliography■ Benson, Larry, et al., eds. The Riverside Chaucer. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1987.
Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.