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Rhythm of misanthrope:  (with Wafa Akkouh)

 We are going to describe the metrics of Misanthrope, the excellent play of Moliere. It's called the alexandrine, two heptasyllabic verses together separated by a little pause called caesura. We must remember that in Spanish we call heptasyllabic verses those that have the final stress on the sixth syllable. Our heptasilabe  is called in English, Catalan and French, hexasyllabe. Let's see some examples taken from the play of Moliere... oops, since we don't find the book, we will use another play, the Tartuffe:

vous étés bien heureux de n'être point venu
au discours qu'a la porte elle nous a tenu

what means, more or less:

You are happy enough not to have come
to the speech that, in the door, she have done

Let's now make the scansion of the French alexandrine:   

vou -  s_e - tés     -   bien - heu -  réux -      ‒  de -  n'ê -  tre    -  point -  ve  -
au   -  dis - cours -   qu'a - la    - pór   - te   ‒  el  -  le   -  nou  -  s_a    -  te  -

where we see the syllables ordered in columns, like good soldiers marching with the music, separated by hyphens, and the sixth syllables of each line in bold characters, to mark the final stress of the hexasyllabe (English nomenclature). In the second line we see an extra syllable in the first part: this is always possible since metrically these syllables after the final stressed doesn't count.

We will now discuss what is called in French the 'é muette' (mute 'e'). It's a vowel, a final vowel,  that was pronounced in past times, but now is suppressed, but as poetry was used and scanned according to classical French, it used naturally the old pronunciation, therefore we must pronounce it even if very little a short of beginning of a syllable but marking however a different syllable that complete the double hexasyllabe, the alexandrine. And even if we deal with modern French usually also in alexandrine, we must pronounce these mysterious 'e' muette, for instance in Mallarmé:

Ses pures ongles très haut dédiant leur onyx,
L'Angoisse, ce minuit, soutient, lampadophore,...

We must syllabify in the same way:

Ses   - pu  - re' _on  - gles - trè   - s_haut  ‒ dé  - di      - ant  - leu - r_o - nyx,
L'An - goi - sse,       - ce   - mi   - nuit,     ‒ sou - tient, - lam - pa  - do  - phore,...

similar, thus, to the Molière's verse, except that the meaning is much more obscure, because the symbolic school of poetry gave priority to the sound over the meaning: words suggest, evoke rather that signify.


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