In fact, much of the content of Shakespeare's plays isn't even written in verse. There's plenty of prose in Shakespeare - indeed, at least one play (Merry Wives of Windsor) is written almost entirely in prose. But when he did use verse, it's usually iambic pentameter, with some exceptions.
Note that none of this is by chance. There's actually a pretty ...
TL;DR: As late as the beginning of the 17th century, the editor Thomas Speght claimed that it was possible for a skillful reader to scan Chaucer. But he modernized Chaucer’s spelling, making it hard for anyone after him to do the same!
It seems that in the mid-16th century, some people still knew, or thought they knew, how to scan Chaucer. Gavin Douglas, in ...
Shakespeare wrote iambic pentameter because that was the most common verse meter of the time. He didn't establish it. Edmund Spenser used it in The Faerie Queene:
Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far unfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing ...
There are two parts to this question: why does English use iambic meter while French doesn't, and why does English have 10 syllables in each line of iambic pentameter, while French has 12 syllables per line in an alexandrine. To answer the second question first, it may be pure chance that French settled on 12 syllables per line, while English settled on 10. ...
No. As the other answers say, there are large portions of Shakespeare's plays that are in prose and not iambic pentameter.
However, even in the sections that are in iambic pentameter, Shakespeare didn't write in perfect iambic pentameter. He wrote in something that today's scholars call "strict iambic pentameter", which allows certain deviations from ...
No. Shakespeare wrote a fair bit of prose as well, especially later in his career. Henry VI part 1 is entirely in verse. Tempest mixes verse and prose.
Often, verse indicates the "high" plot line (the rich people) and prose indicates the "low" plot line (poor people). In Twelfth Night, Viola often (though not always) speaks in poetry to Olivia:
Make me a ...
The metre in Macbeth is already fairly irregular but the lines spoken by the Witches or "Weird Sisters" still stand out.
In Act 1, scene 3, Banquo describes the witches as follows (quoted from Open Source Shakespeare):
(...) What are these
So wither'd and so wild in their attire,
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,
And yet are on't? ...
I'm adding my own answer to complement Peter Shor's.
In an interview, the Shakespeare scholar Kenneth Muir talks, among other things, about his translations of Racine and Corneille. When asked how he translated the alexandrines, Muir responds that he translated them into pentamers:
I decided that alexandrines would not be taken by an English audience, ...
One person who believed that Chaucer could not count syllables, and possibly the most prominent one, was the poet John Dryden. Certainly, Dryden was of the opinion that Chaucer's poetry did not scan properly. In the preface to his book Fables, Ancient and Modern (1700), that contains translations of poems by Chaucer and Ovid, Dryden writes that Chaucer's ...
Tennyson was indeed writing iambic pentameter.
Certain substitutions are traditionally allowed in iambic pentameter, namely, a foot can be replaced by a trochee or a spondee, and two adjacent feet can be replaced by a double iamb.
Here are some examples.
Trochaic substitutions: much have and cities are trochee in the lines:
Much have I seen and known; ...
TL;DR: The quoted claim seems to be a speculation or flight of fancy based on a linguistic coincidence.
In classical Greek, ἀνάκρουσις has two senses, according to Liddell and Scott (1889), A Greek-English Lexicon:
pushing back, especially pushing a ship back, backing water; of a horse, with the bit: metaphorically, reaction against ...
Iambic meters are the most common of all classical and modern meters generally, and iambic pentameter is closest to the natural patterns of English speech. Plus, it was a successful conspiracy cooked up by Marlowe, Sidney, and the Great Vowel Shift.
The word iamb comes from an ancient Greek genre of invective poetry. The metrical term ...
Trochaic meter (consisting of singular trochees) is the exact opposite of iambic meter: trochaic meter a metrical foot made up of one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable. Conversely, iambic meter is made up of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. As a result, this puts emphasis on the beginning of the words in the line:
Prosody is the science that describes poetry forms called meters or seas (bohor) in Arabic.
The comparison between two prosodies requires some basic knowledge of both prosodies.
In western prosodies there is one form with two analogous but different contents.
Sound and prosodic syllables are represented by U for both unstressed (English) and short (Latin) ...
The line scans like this:
/ x x / x x / x x / x x / x /
Simple and clean is the way that you're making me feel tonight
so one way to describe this would be “catalectic dactylic hexameter with a trochee in the penultimate foot”. But really the song isn’t regular enough in its rhythm for that kind of prosodic description to be ...
The rhythm of this poem is accentual dimeter: that is, it has two stresses per line, and an irregular complement of unstressed syllables. I read it like this, treating the second and third lines as if they are a single line that has been split:
Look what we found
in the park in the dark.
We will take him home.
We will call him Clark.
He will live at our ...
Reading comes first
Shakespeare’s plays are written to be spoken by actors on stage, to convey meaning, nuance, and emotion to an audience. This dramatic purpose comes first, before considerations of metre. So the way to scan Shakespeare’s verse drama is to start by reading it aloud, and figuring out where the stress needs to go to best convey the sense, ...
As the comments to your question have noted, the most reliable way to figure out whether a given line is iambic pentameter is to sound it out. But if you're not confident of your ear, there are certain techniques you can use to help you identify how a line scans.
First, it's necessary to understand how stress works in English. When any sequence of English ...
I think your instincts are very good in choosing a trochee for the beginning of the third line.
Emphasizing the "I" is meaningful
The poet sets up this line by musing that if a person said the animals are kneeling, the poet would go out in the darkness to see.
Emphasizing "should" renders the line robotic
Meter is often used to set up a variation in ...
You could scan the second to last line as three trochees followed by an iamb.
"In the lón|ely bár|ton by yón|der cóomb|
Our chíld|hood úsed| to knów|,"
Í should| gó with| hím in| the glóom|,
Hóping| it míght| be só|.
I don't believe the straight iambic scansion works anywhere near as well. It puts stress on should, which is a relatively unimportant ...
I'm not an expert on scansion, but here's how I would read your stanza. Bold denotes a clear stress, and italics a secondary stress, on a particular syllable.
It was quite an absurd occurrence
Which gave rise to reason for
Seven words of swift deterrence
Which I’ll now relate through more
~ - / ~ - / - ~ - / ~ -
~ - / ~ - / ~ - / ~
~ - / ~ - / ~ - /...
I don't believe there is much you can conclude about a poem from whether the meter is rising and falling. There are happy poems and sad poems in iambic meters, and there are happy poems and sad poems in trochaic meters. It's not like minor and major keys in music.
For example, several of A.E Housman's poems are in trochaic tetrameter, and there doesn't ...
I feel like there are two questions here. (1) Does English language break down into metrical feet and (2) are metrical feet used in English poetry.
The American Poetry Foundation defines a foot as a measurement of accentual-syllabic meter, which is just a way of saying English speech regards stresses and syllables distinctly. The breaking up of large ...
For rhyming poetry, the term double rhyme has been used.
In fact, that term is probably older than feminine rhyme in English. The OED has a citation for double rhyme in 1693, which is well before I can find any mention of feminine rhyme in English in Google books.
Of course, you can have feminine endings without them being rhymes, so maybe this isn't an ...
TL;DR: Feet are arbitrary conventions in English verse, so you can scan the poem however you like, but Frost’s description of the metre is simpler than Gillespie’s.
The linked blog post (by poet Patrick Gillespie) describes two theories regarding scansion:
Most people divide lines into feet when they read.
In this division, most people prefer feet ...
Feet are arbitrary concepts in English verse (see this answer for a detailed discussion of the issue), so when you have a line on its own, with no context, it is impossible to say what its scansion ought to be. All you can say in isolation is what the pattern of streses is. In this case I read the line as follows:
x / x / x x x / x /
I want a ...
Yes, rap lyrics require feet with long and short syllables. However, this isn't true just for rap; many other song lyrics require long and short syllables as well. Consider Yesterday, by the Beatles.
If you read it and keep all the syllables the same length, it loses a lot:
Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it seems as though they're ...
Yes, English language poems (at least ones that aren't in accentual meter) have feet.
One illustration of this is Masefield's poem Sea Fever. When he first published it in 1902, the first stanza ran:
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the ...