Alexandrine (155 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Note

  • Editors
  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume : WORLD HISTORY AND IDEAS: A CROSS-CULTURAL VOLUME.


A line of iambic hexameter (i.e. twelve syllables divided into six feet of iambic stress pattern). The Alexandrine being a long line, it is often divided in the middle by a pause or caesura into two symmetrical halves called hemistiches. Pope’s Essay on Criticism offers this exemplary comment on the Alexandrine: “A needless Alexandrine ends the song / That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.” Alexandrines were common in French poetry from the twelfth century onwards; indeed, they derived their name from a French poetic sub-genre written to extol the merits of Alexander the Great. They were later used to brilliant effect by Racine (1639-1699), but tend to be thought unwieldy by English poets whose …

Editors. "Alexandrine". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 November 2001; last revised 13 December 2004.
[, accessed 24 March 2017.]

Save this article

If you need to create a new bookshelf to save this article in, please make sure that you are logged in, then go to your 'Account' here.