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 ...
This is a very simple type of poetic metre, iambic dimeter. Each line consists of just two feet, and each foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable:
my name is Cow,
and wen its nite,
or wen the moon
is shiyning brite,
and all the men
haf gon to bed -
i stay up late.
i lik the bred.
Wikipedia's example of iambic dimeter is ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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) ...
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:
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 ...
These free verse lines do not adhere to any specific number of feet, nor to any regular distribution of stressed and unstressed syllables. So the poem is not in any regular meter.
The opening line suggests a catalectic dactylic trimeter:
| / x x / x x / x
| Softly I | walk through the | forest |
But the subsequent lines quickly dispel ...
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 ...
I think the disconnect may derive from regarding Shakespeare's plays as being written literature. The publication of the text versions of his play, whether in the the First Folios, the quartos, or any later form, were subsequent to the performance of the work. Although Shakespeare is potentially more widely read than any other poet, this method of engaging ...
I have not been able to find a name for this in the literature on poetic forms that I consulted in English, German or Dutch.
The English-language sources I have consulted include the following:
Trochaic tetrameter on Wikipedia, which gives examples in various languages without mentioning a named form that alternating eight-syllable and seven-syllable lines.
It's dactylic tetrameter. That means that there are four feet per line, and each foot is DUM dah dah.
HIGH waving HEATHer 'neath STORmy blasts BENDing,
The feet at the ends of the lines are shorter, a few lines have extra syllables at the beginning, and a few feet are irregular, but this doesn't change the basic meter.
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 ...
In A Prosody Handbook, Karl Shapiro and Robert Beum claim:
The Latin iambus derives from a Greek word meaning "a cripple." The short syllable represents the lame foot, the long one descending with normal strength, perhaps with the added strength of the cane. (p. 35)
Shapiro, Karl, and Robert Beum. A Prosody Handbook. New York: Harper and Row, 1965....
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
~ - / ~ - / - ~ - / ~ -
~ - / ~ - / ~ - / ~
~ - / ~ - / ~ - /...
In spoken languages there's an idea of "stressed" and "unstressed" syllables. A stressed syllable is pronounced with more force and emphasis. In English there are words like "permit" that mean different things when the stressed syllable changes. "PERmit", with the first syllable stressed, is a noun that means "...