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Iambic Pentameter

Iambic Pentameter: What it is and how it is used.

Frank Williams

on 10 May 2010

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Transcript of Iambic Pentameter

What is iambic pentameter? Well it's kind of like a meter almost!
But it's not used for math... Instead it is used for poetry and drama! It describes the rhythm that the words create in each sentence. Let me explain Have you ever had trouble describing the way a song sounds?

If you're talking to a friend and you are trying to describe the beat of a song, like "Mary had a Little Lamb," they would have no idea what you were saying if you said...

dun... dun dun dun. dun dun dun. dun dun dun.
dun dun dun. dun... dun dun dun. dun dun dun
dun dun dun dun dun duuunnn.

That was the beat of "Mary had a Little Lamb".

Hard to understand right? Well, iambic pentameter is actually easier than "Mary had a Little Lamb" because it follows a specific rhythm.
Maybe the definition would be helpful... It's a really good tool to learn to use, and is used to create some of the best poetry there is! So who uses it anyway? William Shakespeare! Iambic pentameter is still alive today! Take a look! Even at CCTS! Here's a famous line from one of Shakespeare's plays! Romeo & Juliet

"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?"
- / - / - / - / - /
But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

When it's broken down into iambic pentameter:
it shows what words require the most emphasis on pronunciation.
it can make your delivery of Shakespeare even more poetic. Here's what the sentence looks like when it's broken down in iambic pentameter. The dashes ( - ) are where you put the most emphasis (they are called the "stressed syllables"). When you see the backslashes ( / ) distinguish syllables that aren't stressed and don't require emphasis on them (accurately titled "unstressed syllables"). Stressed Unstressed I hope you can now better understand what iambic pentameter is!
The rhythm that it creates is like the beating of a heart. Iambic pentameter is one of many meters used in poetry and drama. It describes a particular rhythm that the words establish in each line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet". The word "iambic" describes the type of foot that is used (in English, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). The word "pentameter" indicates that a line has five of these "feet". Iambic Pentameter is... EXAMPLE of IAMBIC PENTAMETER:

An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The rhythm can be written as:

da DUM

A line of iambic pentameter is five iambic feet in a row:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM
One of Shakespeare's most famous lines of iambic pentameter has a weak ending:

- / - / - / / - - / -
To be | or not | to be, | that is | the ques- tion
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