As I’ve spent the last few days diving deep in Antony’s oration in Julius Caesar, paying close attention to clues in both the diction and meter of the lines, I began to wonder: What if you took Brutus’ speech and tried to break down the 27 lines of prose into verse lines of some rough approximation of iambic pentameter? What would happen?
A headache. That’s what.
I gave it shot:
Romans, countrymen, and lovers, hear me
For my cause, and be silent that you may hear.
Believe me for mine honor, and have respect
To mine honor that you may believe.
Censure me in your wisdom, and awake
Your senses that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any
Dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say that Brutus’
Love to Caesar was no less than his.
If then that friend demand why Brutus rose
Against Caesar, this is my answer:
Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.
And that’s when I gave up. Just up and quit. It was brutal. I had some completely trochaic lines (which is fine if you’re writing The Song of Hiawatha). Another had a couple of trochees, a spondee, an unstressed syllable, then two iambs. Some had a wild mix of poetic feet. A few lines could be turned into blank verse, but even in those cases the line breaks were less than poetic.
It just felt… wrong.
Better to stick with prose for this one, methinks.