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Dramatic Poetry

Dramatic poetry most often refers to the poetry used in writing stage plays such as tragedies and comedies. Poets who created works in this form include Aeschylus (Agamemnon), Sophocles (Oedipus Rex), Euripides (Medea), and Aristophanes (Lysistrata)—all Greeks who utilized a specific poetic line. Shakespeare employed blank verse in his plays, and T.S. Eliot used verse in Murder in the Cathedral.

In this discussion, however, I want to show how poetry forms can overlap by addressing the dramatic aspects that appear in both narrative and lyric poems. For example, when the poet speaks through another person or persons—that is, when he expresses his emotions through characters—we have drama, especially when the characters interact with one another. An application of this technique can be found in Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” where the Duke as narrator speaks to another person about the painting of his last Duchess. This is known as dramatic monologue. Another option is for the narrator to address himself, as in William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” In this work, the bard reflects on his reflecting. In yet a different variation, the poet as narrator may address a person in his own mind (as in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Spring and Fall: to a Young Child).

Other forms of drama appear in many lyric and narrative poems. Ballads, for instance, tell a story, and the characters in them may speak to others or to themselves. The Scottish ballad “Bonny Barbara Allen” provides an example of this technique. The narrator depicts two people speaking to each other throughout the poem. The dramatic result well demonstrates the effectiveness of this method.

In my final article on poetry, I will present the same original poem in each of the three forms—lyric, narrative, and dramatic. This comparison will show how each can be utilized to create a different “atmosphere,” a different response from the reader.

L. Luis Lopez has written three books of poetry: Musings of a Barrio Sack Boy, winner of an Honorable Mention in the 2000 Writer’s Digest poetry competition; A Painting of Sand; and Each Month I Sing, which was granted the American Book Award 2008 and the CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) EVVY first place in poetry award 2008. Luis teaches Latin, Ancient Greek, and Mythology at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. He offers workshops in reading and writing poetry. In addition, he and his wife, Maggie, are owners of Farolito Press. Visit his Web site at
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  1. Mr. Lopez,
    Thanks for taking the time to explain all the forms of poetry. I can't wait to read your examples.

  2. "My Last Duchess" is one of my favourite poems. I've tried my hand at dramatic poetry many years ago and this post has made me think I need to dust off some of my poetry again and play around with it.


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