Iambic Pentameter

This lesson comes from TedEd: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-shakespeare-loved-ia...

A quick peek into the rhythm of his words reveals a poet deeply rooted in the way people spoke in his time — and still speak today. Why do Shakespeare’s words have such staying power?



Write the questions and the answers in your notebook:

1. What is the stress pattern of an iamb?

2. Iambic pentameter contains _____ feet, each of which contains _____ syllables.

3. Which of these is NOT a type of metrical foot? A) Ptero   B) Dactyl   C) Trochee

4. Which of these lines is NOT in iambic pentameter?

A) "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?"

B) "A little more than kin and less than kind."

C) "Just for a handful of silver he left us."

D) "So foul and fair a day I have not seen."

5. Shakespeare's characters often speak in iambic pentameter when they are feeling         ___________________.

6. Think about how you speak when you are feeling a strong emotion: anger, happiness, sadness, and disappointment. In trying to express yourself, do you use specific kinds of words? Do you use short sentences or long sentences? And does your language change depending on the kind of emotion you’re feeling?

7. Review the definitions of “trochee” and “dactyl.” To which kinds of moods or tones might these types of feet be suited, based on the way they sound in verse?

8. Try to have a conversation with a partner exclusively in iambic pentameter. You can write a dialogue with each other, alternating lines. Or you can speak back and forth, keeping track of syllables on your fingers. Count your syllables and stresses carefully! Remember that you can’t change the normal stress on a word just to fit the meter. (For instance, you must say com-PU-ter and not COM-pu-ter). See how long you can go in perfect pentameter. It’s harder than it looks!

Dig Deeper

Shakespeare wrote many poems. Most famously, he penned 154 sonnets that are often as studied and celebrated as his plays. His sonnets feature a specific format that uses iambic pentameter to reflect great meaning and emotion in a short burst of verse.

Check out Open Source Shakespeare: a beautiful marriage of the bard and technology that allows you to search every poem and play Shakespeare ever wrote for individual words and phrases. Just how many times does the world “blood” show up in Macbeth?