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Iambic Pentameter: Shakespeare's Rhythm Options
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:00:00 AM
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Iambic Pentameter: Shakespeare's Rhythm

Shakespeare's plays are written largely in iambic pentameter, a poetic meter in which each pair of syllables contains an unstressed syllable and a stressed syllable. It creates a rhythm like that of a human heartbeat: lubb-dupp. Strictly speaking, iambic pentameter refers to five iambs in a row, but poets vary their iambic pentameter a great deal. A common departure is the addition of a final unstressed syllable, which Shakespeare uses in one of his most famous lines. Which line is it? More...
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 1:49:18 AM

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The terminology of metrics, i.e. the explanation of how verses are built,
is even worse than that of grammar. Actually you need a special dictionary
to understand all those academic terms. You really can say It's all Greek to me.

It would be a wonderful exercise to get a feeling for the sense and nonsense of academedic
terms to discuss ten or twenty Greek terms used in TFD'S explanation of Shakespeare's
iambic pentametre.

The discussion should explain the Greek word, e.g. iambic and study whether that word tells something
essential about the thing or not, i.e. whether it is a good term or phantasy nonsense.
And it would be an excellent task to try to invent new terms that say something essential and are easy
to understand.

Perhaps such a task would lead learners to thinking about grammar terms and the ability to replace
terms that are too complicated by simpler and better terms of their own. A lot of difficulties with grammar
are only due to idiotic terms.
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 7:37:50 AM

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Further proving he was genius. I guess those deviations from pentameter could be deemed temporary arrhythmia?
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 9:49:40 AM

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Nicely put, kenturner1!
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:06:11 AM
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Using Iambic Pentameter in Poetry and Verse

Some examples of iambic pentameter include:

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off. (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

And I do love thee: therefore, go with me;
I'll give thee fairies to attend on thee,
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep; (Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. (Shakespeare, Richard III)

Henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland
In such an honour named. What's more to do,
Which would be planted newly with the time,
As calling home our exiled friends abroad
That fled the snares of watchful tyranny;
Producing forth the cruel ministers
Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen,
Who, as 'tis thought, by self and violent hands
Took off her life; this, and what needful else
That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace,
We will perform in measure, time and place:
So, thanks to all at once and to each one,
Whom we invite to see us crown'd at Scone. (Shakespeare, Macbeth)

That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious; (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God! (Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief, (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before. (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke. (Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales)

Hello, my friend. What are you doing here?
If you would put the key inside the lock
Can you come over here to eat tonight?
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical. (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date: (Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII)

Batter my heart three-personed God, for you
as yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend.
That I may rise and stand o'erthrow me and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new. (John Donne, Holy Sonnet XIV)

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar. (John Milton, Paradise Lost)

Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 8:48:58 PM

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Beautiful contribution, Christine, and useful link. Thank you.
Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 8:24:36 PM

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Interesting to note through Donne and Milton and WS's later works how much more flexible the form became moving into the 17th century. Consider Milton's Sonnet 19, one of the finest ever written. The tone is conversational ; read it out loud, observing the punctuation, and you'd never know it was written in a strict metrical form.

When I consider how my light is spent,

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one Talent which is death to hide

Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest he returning chide;

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and wait.”
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