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Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?

No. 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 ...
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21 votes

Were English poets of the sixteenth century aware of the Great Vowel Shift?

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 ...
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18 votes

Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?

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'...
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17 votes
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Why did Shakespeare write in iambic pentameter?

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 ...
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15 votes

Why did the alexandrine become the "natural" metre for French verse drama, whereas English renaissance drama adopted the iambic pentameter?

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 ...
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What meter are "I lik the bred" poems in?

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 ...
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13 votes

Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?

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 (...
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12 votes

Why do the witches in Macbeth rarely speak in iambic pentameter?

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 ...
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9 votes

Why did the alexandrine become the "natural" metre for French verse drama, whereas English renaissance drama adopted the iambic pentameter?

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 ...
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9 votes

Were English poets of the sixteenth century aware of the Great Vowel Shift?

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 ...
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8 votes

Why do the witches in Macbeth rarely speak in iambic pentameter?

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, ...
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8 votes
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Why did iambic pentameter become so 'standard' in classical English poetry?

tl;dr 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 ...
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8 votes
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Resources for determining the meter of a line in Shakespeare

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 ...
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7 votes

How does anacrusis simulate a ship's pushing back from dock?

TL;DR: The quoted claim seems to be a speculation or flight of fancy based on a linguistic coincidence. Meanings In classical Greek, ἀνάκρουσις has two senses, according to Liddell and Scott (1889), ...
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7 votes

How does scansion work in Arabic poetry?

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 ...
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Confused about the meter and rhythm of Ulysses by Tennyson

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 ...
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How to scan the "Clark" poem from "One Fish, Two Fish"?

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 ...
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7 votes
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What's the meter of "Song of Young Girl" by William Lang?

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 ...
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7 votes
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How do we divide syllables when scanning a poem?

The question is based on a misunderstanding about dictionary notation. The question says my dictionary says that hearken is divided into heark·en not hear·en (sic—I presume hear·en is a mistake for ...
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6 votes
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How does Shakespeare's iambic pentameter work with Original Pronunciation?

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 ...
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6 votes
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How does this song lyric "Simple and Clean" scan?

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 ...
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Is there a difference between Russian and English speaking cultures in the sense of rhythm when reciting poetry?

There really does seem to be a difference between Russian and English poetry in this aspect, but it's not that English listeners don't care about rhythm, but that English listeners have somehow ...
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How to scan Wyatt's "They flee from me"?

TLDR: Somebody changed the line from Wyeth's original poem to add two syllables and turn it from iambic tetrameter to iambic pentameter. The line you quote in the post is iambic pentameter. The ...
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5 votes

Is there a name for a version of trochaic tetrameter with lines of 8|7|8|7 syllables?

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: ...
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What is the metre of "High Waving Heather" by Emily Bronte?

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 ...
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5 votes
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How to figure out if something is iambic pentameter?

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 ...
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5 votes
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Etymology of "iamb", as a genre and a type of metre

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 ...
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4 votes

Should there be a trochee in the second to last line of Thomas Hardy's "The Oxen"?

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 ...
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