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The Canon of John Lydgate Project

The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund: Introduction

Rhyme Royal
"Rhyme royal" is a stanza form used by Chaucer in his Parliament of Fowls, Troilus and Criseyde, four of the stories in the Canterbury Tales, and several of his shorter lyrics. The rhyme royal stanza is of seven lines, and the rhyme scheme is of the pattern: ababbcc. Chaucer may have invented the form, which is an adaptation of a French ballade stanza. It has some later influence as the basis upon which Edmund Spenser created his nine-line Spenserian stanza, used in the Faerie Queene. The stanza is known as "Rhyme royal" perhaps, in part, because of its relative formality (Chaucer's use of it suggests its appropriateness to a "high" style, as when addressing royalty); more likely, the name of the form is probably because of the use of this stanza by King James I of Scotland in his love poem, in imitation of Chaucer, The Kingis Quaire. Lydgate also uses the form frequently, especially in his love poems and in verses for royal coronations and other such occasions (Lydgate's second most favourite stanza form is the eight-line "monk's stanza" which Chaucer used in his "Monk's Tale" in the Canterbury Tales). On rhyme royal, see the article by Martin Stevens, "The Royal Stanza in Early English Literature" PMLA 94 (1979): 62-76.

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© 1995 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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Last revised: 22 Nov. 1995

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