The Iambic Pentameter – Rythm of English


Many words are single syllables or many syllables. Each syllable is either stressed or unstressed.

Unstressed Syllable symbol:
Stressed Syllable symbol: /

In a sentence, these syllables ( unstressed = lower case, and stressed = uppercase letters) will string together to make a rhythm, and in the case of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he used the Iambic Pentameter:
   U       /        U          /             U          /     U      /       U          /
“But SOFT what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS.”
       1         |        2            |         3               |       4        |        5

What is an Iamb? and example words:
Iamb: U /  –   Behold, Behind,  Destroy,  Desire,  Reserve
Trochee: / U   –  Sunny, Forest, Planet, Double,  Changes
Spondee: / /   –   Football,   Heartbreak 
Dactyl: / U U   –   Strawberry,   Scorpion
Anapest: U U /   –   Understand,   Contradict   

So, I’m sure you are thinking, “I’ve never heard of an Iambic Pentameter, and what’s its use anyway?”

Ok, I can ask you if you remember any dialogue from the James Bond film Goldfinger. I’m sure after some thought you come up with, “No Mister Bond I expect you to die!”

Funny that is the only line you remember from a film that had a run time of 110 minutes. Since that is a memorable line and now quite famous as it has over six youtube videos with that name, let’s look more closely:
  U     /   U        /      U  /    U       /     U     /  
“no MISter BOND i EXpect YOU to DIE!”

The Iambic Pentameter – Odd that that was a line that you remember. Find some more lines from films or tv programs that you still remember, and you will likely find they are ten syllables long with the perfect rhythm of the Iambic Pentameter.

Syllable Rates:
1. Single syllable rate: Monometer
2. Double syllable rate: Dimeter
3. Tripple syllable rate: Trimeter
4. Four times syllable rate: Terameter
5. Five times syllable rate: Pentameter
6. Six times syllable rate: Hexameter
7. Seven times syllable rate: Heptameter
8. Eight times syllable rate: Octameter

Shakespeare wrote a lot of his plays and Sonnets in Iambic Pentameter.

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