In this blog I aim to provide a fairly comprehensive description and exploration of iambic pentameter from the ground up, in simple, easy to follow segments. We will progress from what is meant by ‘iamb’ and ‘pentameter’, to what defines ‘stress’, to different types of ‘feminine ending’, to simple variant ‘feet’ (a ‘foot’ being the smallest possible metrical… Continue reading Introduction
Iambic pentameter & the principles of metrical variation: part 1 – feminine endings & simple variations
In these posts I aim to outline the principles by which Shakespeare varied the rhythm of the iambic pentameter line. These principles produce metrical patterns, or ‘figures’, which Shakespeare employed to highly expressive effect. But first, what is iambic pentameter? An iamb is a metrical unit, or foot, that is comprised of an unstressed syllable followed by… Continue reading Iambic pentameter & the principles of metrical variation: part 1 – feminine endings & simple variations
Iambic pentameter & the principles of metrical variation: part 2 – radical variations
In my last post, I explored end-line & mid-line feminine endings, and simple variations formed by adjusting the stress of single syllables. Here is a table of the metrical feet and figures I listed:- Feet Iamb: di-dum Pyrrhic: di-di (created by destressing the beat syllable) Spondee: dum-dum (created by stressing the non-beat syllable) [incidentally, these… Continue reading Iambic pentameter & the principles of metrical variation: part 2 – radical variations
Iambic pentameter & the principles of metrical variation: part 3 – double trochees, hexameters, epic caesuras in shared lines, missing syllables, emphasis on a non-beat syllable & the false choriamb
Note to new readers: Please read parts 1 & 2 of this article first! They make a lot more sense when read in the correct order! In this post I will be exploring some less common, but very intriguing variations. In all these examples, I will not split up figures into separate feet. I will… Continue reading Iambic pentameter & the principles of metrical variation: part 3 – double trochees, hexameters, epic caesuras in shared lines, missing syllables, emphasis on a non-beat syllable & the false choriamb
Scanning Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Sonnet 1
In this post I aim to provide a careful metrical analysis of Shakespeare’s opening sonnet, and hope to illustrate how an understanding of meter can enhance our appreciation of his work. Some feet combine with each other to form metrical figures, and I have not divided the figures into individual feet. Those figures in red… Continue reading Scanning Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Sonnet 1
Making the words fit the meter
One of the trickiest aspects to scanning Shakespeare’s verse is working out the syllable count when words have been contracted or expanded to fit the meter. In this post I am going to outline the principles by which words could be contracted or expanded. For clarity, I shall split simple variations into individual feet. Contraction… Continue reading Making the words fit the meter
Why Iambic Pentameter?
In this post I am going to try to answer a question that I frequently encounter: why iambic pentameter? What is so special about this particular meter, as compared to any other? There are two aspects to look at here: the beat pattern, and the number of beats. Let’s look first at the number of beats: five in a pentameter (“penta” is… Continue reading Why Iambic Pentameter?
Resources & further reading
Print editions of Shakespeare plays The best complete works of Shakespeare, in my opinion, is the Norton Shakespeare. I say this despite the fact that I don’t feel it contains the best editing decisions (I have, elsewhere in my blog, commented on the modern editor’s over-willingness to ‘correct’ the original texts). The reason I recommend… Continue reading Resources & further reading
Foot = The smallest possible metrical component, which always contains one beat. Indeed, the sole purpose of foot division is to highlight the beat placements. Iamb = A metrical unit, or foot, comprised of an unstressed non-beat syllable followed by a stressed beat syllable: di-dum Pentameter = Verse written in lines comprised of five feet (‘penta-‘ means five); so iambic… Continue reading Glossary